(Photo credit- Jeff Schultz/myajc.com)
On Tuesday Major League Baseball gave former Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella the lifetime ban due to his role in the illegal International signing periods of 2015-16. The team was accused of signing International free agents illegally and specifically going against the MLB’s spending restriction rule. One of the major infractions committed was something called “bundling” signing bonuses. That is basically when a team overspends in the International market and is then limited to a certain signing bonus per player (the Braves number was $300,000), then more or less takes money from certain players bonuses and stacks it onto other’s to pay for the talent of that player in particular. The Braves exceeded their limit by a large amount and are now being punished for doing so. As a source told Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, these violations are “unprecedented, and the penalties will back up that notion”.
The start of the punishment came when the League announced that every player the Braves acquired in the 2015-16 International signing period is now a restricted free agent, which ended up being 12 players in total. That is an obviously devastating blow to Atlanta’s farm system considering the fact that one of the players involved is the no.9 overall prospect, Kevin Maitan. A switch-hitting short stop who was also the number 1 International free agent prospect in 2016. Along with Maitan the Braves are also losing catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, infielder Yunior Severino, and RHP Juan Contreras. All four players were top 100 International prospects. Atlanta will also lose their 3rd round pick in the 2018 draft.
When the scandal first started to gain friction in October Coppolella and International scouting director Gordon Blakely quickly realized this and jumped ship. Even though the Braves had changed some things upstairs in the organization, Coppolella still had a job until he resigned. As egregious as all of this is, it isn’t the first time we’ve seen this and it surely won’t be the last.