Right-handed pitcher Carter Stewart, the No. 8 pick in last year’s MLB Draft, is in agreement on a contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League, reports The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Stewart, who is represented by Scott Boras, will reportedly receive more than $7 million over six years, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
According to Passan, Stewart is expected to finalize his deal with the Hawks, who have won four of the past five Japan Series, by the end of May. Stewart, 19, could potentially return to the United States as a 25-year-old free agent, and he would be allowed to sign a long-term contract with any of MLB’s 30 teams. Here’s Passan with more regarding the possibility of Stewart returning to the US to join MLB:
MLB’s rules require a “foreign professional” to have spent “all or part of at least six seasons” playing in an “MLB-recognized foreign professional league.” Even though Stewart is American, sources told ESPN that residency determination for foreign players is based on a number of factors, including where a player has played, where he plans to live, as well as his nationality. Stewart, under current rules, would be considered a foreign professional if he spends the next six seasons in Japan, sources said, though those rules are subject to change.
If they do not, Stewart could at age 25 join MLB via the posting system, which is used to transfer players between the leagues. The system allows foreign professionals 25 and older unrestricted free agency and delivers a fee to their Japanese team that depends upon the size of the contract negotiated with the MLB team.
Stewart was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2018, but the two failed to reach an agreement as the Braves had concerns about a wrist injury. Stewart rejected Atlanta’s below-slot signing bonus of around $2 million, and as Passan notes, the offer was well under the $4.98 million slot value of the pick. Instead, Stewart enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, which made him eligible for this year’s draft. He is currently ranked No. 59 among draft prospects by MLB Pipeline.
In his freshman season with Eastern Florida State, Stewart went 2-2 with a 1.70 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. His ERA ranked as 14th-best in the National Junior College Athletic Association while his strikeout total was seventh-best.
The Braves will have the ninth pick this year as compensation for not agreeing with Stewart. This year’s MLB Draft will begin on Monday, June 3.