MLB is handing down severe punishments for the Braves’ violations of rules regarding international signings. The league is voiding the contracts of 13 minor-leaguers, including shortstop Ji-hwan Bae, right-handed pitcher Juan Contreras, right-handed pitcher Yefri del Rosario, catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, shortstop Kevin Maitan, Brandol Mezquita, outfielder Juan Carlos Negret, third baseman Yenci Pena, infielder Angel Rojas, second baseman Yunior Severino, outfielder Antonio Sucre, shortstop Livan Soto, and right-handed pitcher Guillermo Zuniga. In addition, the Braves will lose their third-round pick in next June’s draft and will face severe restrictions during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 international signing periods. GM John Coppolella, who resigned in early October following the revelation that the Braves had violated international signing rules, has been banned from working in Major League Baseball for life. Special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who also resigned following the revelations, will be suspended for one year. Baseball America’s Ben Badler and Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan were the first to report details of the punishments on Tuesday.
Since they were already limited to an international signing pool of $300,000 per season over the next two years due to the money they’d spent on international players in recent years, the big punishments for Atlanta will come in the two signing periods after that. In 2019-20, they’ll be prohibited from spending more than $10,000 per international player and will not be allowed to sign 14-year-old shortstop Robert Puason, with whom they had already reached an illegal agreement. In 2020-21, they’ll lose half of their $4.75 million bonus pool.
The biggest punishments for the Braves, however, will come from the loss of highly-regarded prospects they’ve added over the past two international signing periods. Maitan was ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the Braves organization, the eighth-best shortstop prospect in baseball, and the No. 38 overall prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. Pipeline also ranked Gutierrez as the No. 30 in the Braves system. Players are immediately eligible to sign with any of the 29 other clubs, so they should be highly in-demand on the free-agent market. Badler reports that they’re also eligible to re-sign with the Braves, but must wait until May 1 of next year if they choose to do so and will not be eligible to receive an additional signing bonus.
While the loss of guys like Maitan and Gutierrez will be harmful to the Braves’ farm system four or five years down the road, they’ve still got one of the best minor-league systems in the majors because of all the near-major-league-ready prospects they’ve collected over the years. Even after the loss of Maitan, the Braves still have seven players on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list: Ronald Acuna, Kolby Allard, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara, and Joey Wentz.