Aramis Ramirez exercises $14.6 million option for 2011

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For a brief moment Aramis Ramirez dropped some hints about possibly declining his $14.6 million player option for 2011, but presumably his agent (or really anyone with a functional brain) took him aside and said something like, “Uh, you just had your worst season since 2002, maybe take the money.”

Ramirez made it official today, exercising the $14.6 million option for 2011 while also forcing the Cubs to either pay him $16 million or a $2 million buyout in 2012. In other words, by exercising his option Ramirez guarantees himself another $16.6 million and also delays free agency by a year to potentially recoup some of the value he’s lost.

He’s obviously never going to get another contract like the five-year, $75 million deal the Cubs gave him in November of 2006, but if Ramirez returns to his pre-2010 levels he’s definitely capable of securing a multi-year deal for a ton of money next winter. In his first six full seasons in Chicago he hit .303/.368/.551 with an average of 35 homers and 115 RBIs per 150 games, and after a horrendous first half this year he quietly hit .276/.321/.526 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs in the second half.

American draft prospect Carter Stewart signs in Japan

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The Atlanta Braves selected high school pitcher Carter Stewart with the number eight overall pick in the 2018 draft. Then, after the draft, they gave Stewart a below-slot signing bonus offer, claiming that they found problems with his wrist in his post-draft physical. Stewart ended up rejecting the offer and the MLBPA filed a grievance against the Braves on Stewart’s behalf.

The grievance sought to make Stewart a free agent it was considered a long shot at the time of its filing and, in fact, the grievance was rejected. Stewart, unable to attain free agency, enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, a two-year school that would’ve made him eligible for the 2019 draft.

Now, Ken Rosenthal reports, Stewart has pulled a crazy Ivan and is heading to Japan, having signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. The terms of the deal aren’t known, but Rosenthal says Stewart was looking for a $7 million guarantee.

It’s a fascinating turn of events for Stewart who, this time last year, was considered perhaps the best amateur pitcher in baseball. Being lowballed and having his health questioned by the Braves may have been a wakeup call to Stewart, however, about his chances of finding a quick path the bigs in the U.S. If the shine did come off of his prospect status in the past year here, there’s every reason to believe that $7 million and a path to the bigs in Japan is a much better deal than several million less and a path to the bigs in America.

He’ll be worth watching over the next few years, that’s for sure. Both for his own sake and to see if, in this era of Major League Baseball’s capping of amateur bonuses and teams’ habit of manipulating service time, going overseas becomes more attractive to American high schoolers and college players.