As a Florida high school student, Carter Stewart was chosen by the Atlanta Braves with the eighth pick in the 2018 MLB draft. He never signed, due to issues regarding an alleged injury, but the now-19-year-old pitched this season at the junior-college level for Eastern Florida State College and was expected to be picked early in the second round of next month's draft. Instead, he'll sign with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League, according to sources who spoke to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and ESPN's Jeff Passan. As Passan explains, the 6-foot-6 pitcher "would be the first American amateur to join a Japanese team on a long-term deal," and the "groundbreaking deal ... could have long-term ramifications for Major League Baseball's amateur and professional sides" if Stewart's move starts a trend. Fukuoka has won four of the past five Japan Series.
Passan also explains why the six-year contract, said to be worth more than $7 million, is a good move for Stewart: It gets him "significantly more money" than he would have made signing with an MLB team, and it offers him the chance to then come to the MLB as a free agent at age 25. As Ted Berg further explains at For the Win, "pitching is a risky enterprise," and if Stewart signed with an MLB team and then got injured or his career derailed for some other reason, "he would leave the game with only a pittance more than his signing bonus," which was likely to be no higher than $2 million. Even if he were to do well in the MLB, he'll likely make more in Japan, thanks especially to the escalator clauses in his contract. The deal is expected to be finalized at the end of the month; Stewart is already in Japan and is expected to join one of the Hawks' minor league affiliates once it is completed. (Read more baseball stories.)