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

From Jeff Passan at on May 22, 2019:

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.

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Originally published: May 22, 2019. Last Updated: May 22, 2019.