Braves busted by Major League Baseball over global signings

The team will not be allowed to sign top 2019 prospect Robert Puason, with who the Braves allegedly struck an illegal deal.

Following an investigation that cost general manager John Coppolella and scout Gordon Blakeley their jobs and led indirectly to the resignation of president of baseball operations John Hart, MLB determined the Braves had broken rules - the most severe of which was the packaging of signing bonuses - in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 global signing periods.

The result is that 12 worldwide signees - Kevin Maitan, Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Tunior Severino, Livan Soto, Guillermo Zuniga, Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre - will all be released from their contracts, with Major League Baseball and Manfred "declaring them free agents eligible to sign with any other Club".

As a result, the Braves signed nine players - Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Kevin Maitan, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zunigo - during the 2016-17 period, who "would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period", noted Manfred. Each of the players will be forced to use an agent different than the buscon, or trainer, who negotiated their original deals.

Additionally, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any worldwide player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period and their global signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent. At least three other players signed for a bonus of more than $1 million. Atlanta will also lose a third-round draft pick in 2018.

The Braves also suffered penalties for circumventing worldwide signing rules in recent years. He will remain with Atlanta.

Atlanta finished the year at 72-90 and third place in the NL East after going 68-93 in 2016.

Former Braves special assistant Gordon Blakeley was also suspended for a year, with Manfred saying, "I intend to discipline other Braves' International Baseball Operations employees who particpated in the misconduct after the completion of our internal procedures". The punishment to the Red Sox was the initial message, and since that apparently wasn't clear enough, they just dismantled the Braves' front office and farm system.

Coppolella was replaced as general manager by Alex Anthopoulos, who held the same position with the Toronto Blue Jays between 2009 and 2015. The Braves were simply the ones caught. While evaluators' opinions of him are more divided than they were at his signing - seen as a sure thing at the time, Maitan did not impress in rookie ball this year, with one scout saying he was out of shape and didn't look like a prospect - he'll nearly certainly receive a significant seven-figure bonus on top of the millions Atlanta paid him to sign.

  • Santos West