A top Major League Baseball Prospect who was drafted 8th overall by the Atlanta Braves in 2018, has opted instead to sign with a Japanese baseball team.
Carter Stewart, who was billed as a top 5 prospect but then fell due to financial demands, signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports. Rosenthal also reports that Stewart will “almost certainly” get more money from the Japanese team, than he would have gotten in the MLB draft.
According to the New York Post, “Atlanta had made a below-slot signing bonus offer, saying it found issues with his wrist in the medicals. Stewart rejected the deal and enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, which would have made him eligible for this year’s draft.
“As for the Braves, they’ll have the ninth pick this year as compensation for not agreeing with Stewart. But if they want to sign Stewart now, Atlanta will need to go the same route as everyone else — a posting fee, should the Hawks decide to let him go to the big leagues.”
The move makes a lot of sense for both Stewart and the Japanese team. While the Braves are loaded with talent and may decline to pay the substantial posting fee that the Hawks are likely to demand. Other teams who need pitching (which is nearly all of them) will likely pay the fee. Which means the JPL team will get paid and Stewart will get paid when contract time comes.
Or, the Hawks could keep their young American pitcher and make him rich in Japan. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.
Phenoms like Stewart have considerably more flexibility than most other prospects. Though, one wonders if top prospects with big salary ambitions will begin using the Japanese league as a stalking-horse in their negotiations with MLB clubs.
Surely some prospects have used the Japanese league in that way before. However, now that someone has actually done it, the threat will carry a lot more credibility.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn