Mariners activate Michael Saunders, send Jesus Montero back to Triple-A

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Jesus Montero’s latest stint in the big leagues was a short one, as the Mariners have demoted the one-time top prospect back to Triple-A to make room for outfielder Michael Saunders’ return from the disabled list.

Saunders missed three weeks with a strained shoulder and comes back after going 9-for-20 during a brief minor-league rehab assignment at Triple-A. He’ll resume playing regularly in the Mariners’ outfield after hitting .265 with four homers and a .741 OPS in 52 games before the injury, more or less matching his production from the past two seasons.

Montero got just 14 at-bats during this latest call-up and wasn’t especially impressive at Triple-A, so his status in the Mariners’ long-term plans is definitely shaky at age 24. Billed as one of the elite hitting prospects around while in the Yankees’ farm system, he’s hit just .252 with 19 homers and a .672 OPS in 169 games for the Mariners since coming over in a deal for Michael Pineda.

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.