Last year, Carter Stewart was expected to be the next big thing for the Atlanta Braves.
Now, he’s headed to Japan.
Stewart signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
It is a six-year contract for more than $7 million, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. In signing, Stewart is the first U.S. player to sign a long-term deal with a Japan team.
Stewart was drafted No. 8 overall after being named to the ALL-USA Baseball First Team as a senior at Eau Gallie High School (Melbourne, Fla.) but did not sign a contract after the team became concerned about a wrist injury Stewart said he suffered while skateboarding at the age of nine and offered less money than Stewart asked.
The then-18-year-old asked for $4.5 million from Atlanta, the MLB reported. The Braves offered him about $2 million.
By signing with Japan, Stewart has the opportunity to be an international free agent when he turns 25 — the year his contract expires, Passan reported, and added that there would be no restrictions with him signing with an MLB team.
His agent, Scott Boras, has spent years attempting to use this as a negotiation tactic but no player had gone through with it, according to Passan.
That is, until Stewart.
The 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher throws fastballs in the mid-90s and has a curveball spin of 3,000 RPM, according to Passan.
As a senior at Eau Gallie, Stewart had a 0.91 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 61.2 innings and batted .313 with seven home runs and 22 RBI.
After not agreeing to a contract with the Braves, Stewart attended Eastern Florida State College. He had a 1.70 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 74.1 innings, according to ESPN.
Stewart is now in Japan and expected to join a minor league affiliate of the team he signed with, according to Passan.