The strange economics of pro baseball pushed a top US star to Japan

A 19-year-old baseball player swung for the fences by ditching the MLB draft and scored a $7m contract… in Japan.


May 23, 2019

Carter Stewart, a 19-year-old baseball pitcher, shocked America’s baseball fans by skipping the MLB draft and signing a 6-year, $7m deal with a Japanese baseball club.

Why would a potential star ditch the draft?

In short, because it’s easy to strike out in the draft.

It’s hard to feel bad for a 19-year-old who will make millions hitting balls of cork and yarn — but Stewart got a dud deal last year.

Based on his position as 8th overall pick, Stewart expected an offer of $4.98m. But, thinking he was injured, the Braves offered only ~$2m. 

Instead of taking the lowball offer, Stewart went to junior college. But in this year’s draft, Stewart was expecting a lower draft pick — and an offer below $2m.

So Stewart said screw it

Had Stewart stayed, he would have made less than $4m in 6 years (thanks to MLB rules about earnings caps) and become a free agent in 2027. 

But by going to Japan, Stewart will make a guaranteed $7m — and earn free agency 3 years sooner.

Stewart, the first player to dodge the MLB draft, outwitted a system that routinely exploits players — and if his plan works, others may follow his lead.

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