The other shoe has finally dropped for the Atlanta Braves. After getting caught circumventing international signing rules and bonuses, they started taking care of the problem internally by letting go of GM John Coppolella and special assistant Gordon Blakeley right after the news broke.
That wasn’t the end of things though, as senior advisor John Hart stepped down to go “spend time with family” or whatever milquetoast reasoning they went with to not make it seem like he was forced out.
While that was all happening, the team all but knew that they would be further punished by the league for their infractions, which include packaging international signing bonuses to sign prospects at more money than is on the books and offering “impermissible benefits”, most likely involving a loss of prospects if not more than that.
Now, the day has finally arrived where that further punishment has been handed down, and before it was announced the penalties were expected to to focus on signing classes from the last two seasons, with top prospects like Kevin Maitan, Abrahan Gutierrez, Yunior Severino, and Juan Contreras being made international free agents. Which is how it panned out.
The Braves released their own statement about the punishments and the investigation.
Those players are the recipients of the Braves’ top-four signing bonuses in 2016, but that’s not all. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, these four prospects are just the tip of an iceberg that includes up to 12 current prospects and restrictions on their international free agent signings in 2019 and 2020. Ken Rosenthal reports that they won’t be able to pay more than $10k for any player in 2019-2020 and their international signing pool money will be halved in 2020-2021.
That number of players lost doesn’t even include top 2019 prospect Robert Puason and a third-round draft pick taken away in 2018. The former restriction is due to the organization striking an illegal agreement with Puason, and the latter is because they offered secret inducements to an already-drafted player. Some not fun times for the Braves’ front office right now.
Other names on the list of prospects they are giving up include Yefri del Rosario, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Livan Soto, Ji-Hwan Bae, Guillermo Zunigo, Antonio Sucre, Brandol Mezquita, and Angel Rojas.
That means the Braves will be looking at a whole lot of money that they spent on prospects that will give them no actual return on the field.
As Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer David O’Brien reports, the Braves’ overages for their 2016 class may have equaled nearly $4 million based on what was reported.
All prospects released from their Braves contracts as part of this punishment will keep their signing bonuses — but will have certain restrictions on their new free agent status — and just in case you thought there was an easy loophole here, the Braves won’t be able to re-sign any players they lose until May 1st of next year -- and they wont be able to offer any more money to each players.
As Ben Badler at Baseball America reports, players have six weeks from December 5th to January 15th to sign for an additional signing bonus. They can still sign after that but won’t be eligible for more money on top of whatever they got from the Braves.