Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents
Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.
Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list -- the same list Pete Rose is on -- banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.
As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:
- Juan Contreras;
- Yefri del Rosario;
- Abrahan Gutierrez;
- Kevin Maitan;
- Juan Carlos Negret;
- Yenci Peña;
- Yunior Severino;
- Livan Soto;
- Guillermo Zuniga;
- Brandol Mezquita;
- Angel Rojas; and
- Antonio Sucre
As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:
There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:
The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players -- through their representatives in Latin America -- to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:
“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.
“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.
“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”
The scheme continued like this:
This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams -- many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale -- that MLB will not tolerate it.
The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.