TOKYO (Reuters) – Nippon Professional Baseball side Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks confirmed on Saturday they had signed 19-year-old American pitcher Carter Stewart in a move that could potentially impact Major League Baseball in the United States.
The Hawks announced the signing in a statement on Saturday, although the teenager’s decision to move to Japan had been revealed earlier in the week.
Stewart was selected eighth overall in the 2018 draft by the Atlanta Braves but decided not to sign when the Braves reduced their signing offer to around $2 million because of concerns over a wrist injury to the right hander.
He enrolled in college and was expected to be picked high in next month’s MLB draft but has instead became the first amateur American to sign with a Japanese team.
Details of the contract were not revealed, but U.S. media reported he had signed a six-year, $7 million deal.
Stewart’s pioneering decision is a ground-breaking moment for young American baseball players and how he fares is likely to be watched keenly on both sides of the Pacific.
After playing six years in Japan, Stewart will be eligible to sign with any MLB club as a free agent at 25, two years earlier than he would have been able to had he stayed in the U.S.
He will attend a news conference in California on May 30 before being unveiled in Japan in early June.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Greg Stutchbury