May 23, 2019


When the going gets tough, the tough get going . . . to Japan.

Carter Stewart, a 19-year old pitcher was drafted in the first round of the MLB draft. Due to an alleged injury, the Braves cut his signing bonus offer in half, to $2 million. Stewart refused the offer. He is now expected to be drafted lower, in the second round.

But he won't be drafted at all. It has been reported that Stewart will by-pass the MLB and sign directly with a Japanese pro team for a six-year deal worth over $7 million.

This is a clever runaround of the draft and stash MLB procedure for young talent. You sign with a team, get a bonus, then toil in the minors from four to six years at a bare minimum salary. He is getting more than his projected $2 million bonus by $5 million. Currently, minor league players are paid from $1100 to $1800 per month depending on what level they are at in the system. At best, he would make $60,000 to $80,000 for six years of minor league service. Japan is giving him $5 million for the same training.

Though he is now committed to playing in Japan through age 25, Stewart will, essentially, enter free agency once he’s finished and be able to sign for whatever the market commands when the time comes. Stewart would be considered a standard international free agent should he play in Japan for the next six years, according to writer Jeff Passan.

In addition, he will have six seasons of higher than MLB minor league experience which could drive up his market value (see, Yu Darvish).

This could be the future for highly prized prospects who do not want to wait years in the minors to get their shot at the Big Show. And this is also a way to avoid being drafted by sink hole franchises like the Marlins.