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Carter Stewart and commissioner Rob Manfred at last year's draft. Photo: Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

19-year-old pitcher Carter Stewart has agreed to a six-year, $7+ million contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League, a groundbreaking deal that could change baseball.

Why it matters: The MLB's financial model limits the bargaining power of amateurs, pays minor leaguers sub-poverty-level wages and keeps players locked into below-market contracts through their peak years. The only reason players put up with this is because there's no alternative. Stewart may have just created one.

The backdrop: Stewart was drafted No. 8 overall in the 2018 draft by the Atlanta Braves. Unable to reach a deal, he went to junior college and was expected to be a second-rounder in next month's draft.

By the numbers: Which route would you take?

  • MLB draft: He'd sign for ~$2 million then be paid next to nothing in the minors. Ideally, he'd make the majors by 2022, where he'd earn the minimum for three years (currently ~$600,000). That's less than $4 million over six years and he wouldn't hit free agency until 2027.
  • Japan: Guarantees himself $7 million, while also becoming an international free agent three years earlier in 2024 when he's just 25 years old.

The big picture: Even if this doesn't start a trend of players going overseas (not everyone is willing to spend their early 20s in Japan), it's a bad enough look for MLB that it could force the league to reassess its current system.

  • The most prestigious baseball league in the world just lost one of America's best young prospects to Japan because he can make more money there. Those optics aren't great.

The bottom line: "Stewart, in the end, is a proxy for something bigger — a haymaker at a system capable of careening out of control until brought back into balance," ESPN's Jeff Passan writes:

  • "Perhaps [he] is that counterweight. Maybe it's someone after him. Could be that nothing changes and this is but a blip. Whatever the case, it's a noble effort, an admirable risk and a fascinating story."

Go deeper: 2019 MLB mock draft

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.