Nineteen-year-old pitcher Carter Stewart is in agreement with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League on a six-year contract worth more than $7 million, a groundbreaking deal that could have long-term ramifications for Major League Baseball’s amateur and professional sides, sources told ESPN.
Stewart, who was chosen by the Atlanta Braves with the eighth pick in the 2018 draft out of a Florida high school but did not sign after they reduced their signing-bonus offer due to an alleged injury, was expected to be chosen in the early second round of this June’s draft. By signing with Fukuoka, which has won four of the past five Japan Series, Stewart would guarantee himself significantly more money than he would have made with a major league organization — and could theoretically join the major leagues as a 25-year-old free agent.
The entire system of minor league baseball is based upon poverty wages for years so that the baseball owners don’t have to pay any serious money to anyone unless they have already proven out. Combined with the 6 full years to free agency, in which players are in their prime and consistently undercompensated, and you have an exploitative sport that is comparable to what the NCAA does. Now that owners are wising up that signing 30 year old free agents to huge deals is a bad investment, it means that players are now never getting paid what they are worth. This is a big reason that Kyler Murray bailed on his MLB contract, despite being a first round pick, when he had the opportunity to go high in the NFL draft. With the latter, he gets paid right now. With the former, he gets a signing bonus and then basically nothing for years until he makes the majors. Obvious choice.
While I think most of us who like baseball hold the minor leagues close to our hearts–we went to games as kids after all–the whole system needs to be blown up and if young players can go to Japan and get paid for seven years before coming back to the Majors, then good for them.