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Volume 26 No. 50
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Carter Stewart's Decision To Play In Japan Could Have Big MLB Impact

Stewart did not sign with the Braves after being the eighth pick of the '18 MLB Draft out of high school
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Potential first-round MLB pick Carter Stewart has signed a six-year deal with Nippon Professional Baseball's Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks worth more than $7M, a "groundbreaking deal that could have long-term ramifications" for MLB's amateur and pro sides, according to sources cited by Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. Stewart, a pitcher, was originally selected by the Braves with the eighth pick of the '18 MLB Draft out of high school, but did not sign after they "reduced their signing-bonus offer due to an alleged injury." By signing with Fukuoka, Stewart would "guarantee himself significantly more money than he would have made with a major league organization." Once the deal is finalized, Stewart would be the "first American amateur to join a Japanese team on a long-term deal." He would be "committed to the Hawks through the cusp of his 25th birthday." Sources said that were Stewart to play in Japan for the next six years, he "would be considered, under the present rules, an international free agent eligible for posting" (ESPN.com, 5/21). YAHOO SPORTS' Jack Baer noted Stewart is "now on track to make double in Japan what he would have on a standard minor league path." Baer: "Why wouldn't more MLB draft prospects do this? And what could MLB do to stop them?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/21).

MORE VIABLE OPTION NOW: In Tokyo, Jim Allen noted Stewart's agent Scott Boras in the past "cited NPB as a potential landing site for two clients," but those negotiating ploys were "essentially toothless since Japanese teams could not come close to matching" the kind of money MLB teams could offer. However, that is "no longer the case." Since '12, the amount MLB teams can spend on domestic and international amateurs has been "sharply curtailed." Because of those limits, top amateurs are now "within the budget of NPB clubs, who have no spending restrictions on international talent" (KYODO, 5/22). In Florida, Hillard Grossman notes the SoftBank Hawks are owned by Japanese business magnate and Sprint Chair Masayoshi Son, who "reportedly owns billions of dollars of investments and has a controlling stake in Sprint." Former MLBer Matt Skrmetta, who now works as a scout for the Hawks, said the club has "no budget" (FLORIDA TODAY, 5/22).

MISSING OUT: ESPN’s Trey Wingo said it is a "problem for baseball" that players like Stewart and Kyler Murray are opting not to play in MLB. ESPN’s Mike Golic said, “You always say, ‘When you have the hammer, swing it if you can swing it.’ … I wonder if it makes baseball stand up and think a little bit about what they can do about it” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 5/22).

TWITTER REAXBaseball America tweeted, "The curious case of Carter Stewart continues." Pitching consultant Kyle Boddy: "This is the big part about Carter Stewart: He can come to MLB six years after signing in NPB as a FA. You need six years *in the big leagues* in MLB to become an FA! Next CBA should have X years total control to FA, not MLB service only." Dodgers blogger Dustin Nosler: "Such an interesting decision by Carter Stewart. Don’t think it’ll start a trend, but it’s one way for draft prospects to potentially get paid if MLB teams aren’t willing to come close to their demands." Yankees podcaster Max Wildstein: "This is a really neat thing for Carter Stewart to partake in, but such a sad situation involving MLB."