How a 19-year-old prospect is turning the MLB draft upside down

For years, opponents of Major League Baseball’s draft who believed it stifled the true value of players have hypothesized about ways to avoid its constraints. Nineteen-year-old Carter Stewart is ready to test the viability of an alternative — and travel more than 7,500 miles from his Florida home to do it.

Stewart is in agreement on a six-year contract worth more than $7 million with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Japan’s Pacific League, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN. Stewart was the No. 8 overall pick in last year’s MLB draft but didn’t sign after the Atlanta Braves, who believed he was injured, offered him a signing bonus well under the $4.98 million slot value of the pick — around $2 million. Stewart went to junior college instead and was expected to go early in the second round of this year’s draft — and receive an offer of less than $2 million.

Instead, he agreed to a groundbreaking contract with the Hawks, who have won four of the past five Japan Series. Stewart is expected to finalize the deal by the end of May. Not only does Stewart stand to make more money during his six years in Japan than he would have with an MLB organization, he could potentially return to the United States as a 25-year-old free agent allowed to sign a long-term contract with any of MLB’s 30 teams.

Source: Jeff Passan,

3 comments for “How a 19-year-old prospect is turning the MLB draft upside down

  1. Name
    May 28, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    This will assuredly not become the norm for – especially not for top prospects.

    1. Hall of Fame – the HOF is mostly about your counting stats and longevity, and every season not producing in MLB and in some foreign league will hurt your career numbers and chance at HOF.

    2. Top prospects already get great money – 2 mil is already more than most people will make in their lifetime. Guaranteeing them a few extra mil won’t sway most to give up their current way of life and having to learn a new society, language and culture.

    3. Ego/Pride – There’s a reason why all the foreign players want to make the jump to MLB. It’s the highest level of play for baseball. We just saw Ohtani forgo maybe 100+ mil had he just waited 1 year longer for the sake of getting to the highest league.

    • May 28, 2019 at 6:04 pm

      I don’t believe it will become the norm, either.

      But I don’t feel like either #1 or #3 will be the driving reason. I think it will be predominantly #2, specifically the final part – give up their current way of life and having to learn a new society, language and culture.

      There are a few people who dig that kind of stuff but the overwhelming majority of people won’t be comfortable doing that. It’s why regular businesses have to extremely overpay their employees to get them to go overseas. Buddy of mine worked for IBM many years ago and they wanted him to work in China. They offered him a ton of money, he asked for more and they gave it to him.

      Look at the NBA, where guys can go overseas for one year, make a ton of money and get valuable experience and then go into the draft. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of guys who’ve done it since the NBA banned drafting guys out of HS in ’06. And still have fingers left over. MLB kids will have to do it for six years.

  2. TexasGusCC
    May 28, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    I don’t think the kid will stay for the duration of the deal. Here, kids get homesick going to another state and they are to go out of the country? I would assume there are outs in the deal, and not only do I agree with Name that the money was still good although didn’t satisfy his ego – and Atlanta didn’t trust him or was playing him. Pretty sure Atlanta wouldn’t let him go if he wasn’t hurt.

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