Royals expected to decline Joakim Soria’s option for 2013

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Joakim Soria took a big step in his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery by throwing yesterday for the first time, but with his status for the beginning of next season still uncertain Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals “are expected to exercise a $750,000 buyout clause” of his $8 million option.

That would make Soria a very interesting free agent, because he’s just 28 years old and was one of the truly elite relievers in baseball from 2007-2011. Dutton notes that “both sides have expressed interest in working out a new deal” but it seems likely that Soria would at least want to test the market and see if there are any teams willing to offer him multi-year deals.

Among all active pitchers with at least 250 career innings Soria ranks third in opponents’ OPS (.579), fifth in ERA (2.40), and ninth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.92).

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.