This past year wasn’t fun for Atlanta Braves fans. Now, after a relatively lackluster season, Braves fans are getting insult added to their injury. Now, it’s been announced that the Braves are being stripped of 13 top prospects. Even worse, former GM John Coppolella has been banned from MLB for life on charges he “circumvented international signing rules” for at least two, maybe more, years.
And it gets worse. Former Atlanta special assistant Gordon Blakeley, the team’s previous international scouting chief, has been suspended from baseball for at least one year after a ruling by Commissioner Rob Manfred. And… yes, there’s more… sanctions imposed by Manfred will not allow the Braves to bargain effectively for a top Latin American prospect until 2021.
Why all the hammers landing on the MLB franchise in Atlanta? Because the league’s investigation into recruiting irregularities determined that the Braves organization funneled extra signing bonuses to at least five players through other players, then redistributing that money. Basically, they were attempting to get around restriction on payouts and compensation to foreign national players.
The reason for this attempt is that the league has a cap on how much can be paid to international amateur players, in order to help level the playing field for all the franchises. Other franchises may also be trying to do the same thing, but the Braves got caught.
Now, Major League Baseball has voided the contracts of nine players which the Braves would not have been able to sign if they followed the rules. According to the Associated Press, these players include:
Venezuelan infielder Kevin Maitan ($4.25 million signing bonus), Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez ($3.53 million), Dominican shortstop Yunior Severino ($1.9 million), Dominican right-hander Juan Contreras ($1.2 million), Dominican shortstop Yenci Pena ($1.05 million), Dominican right-hander Yefri del Rosario ($1 million), Cuban outfielder Juan Carlos Negret ($1 million), Venezuelan shortstop Livan Soto ($1 million) and Colombian right-hander Guillermo Zuniga ($350,000).
Other potential player acquisitions were disallowed in this process. In total, the team will take more than a $16 million loss due to these results and the team has been blocked from pursuing certain other prospects.
For fans trying to make sense of all of this technical and business talk, the bottom line takeaway is this: Our team screwed up, they weren’t very good this year, and they won’t be that great next year either…and they may have messed up their long-term future too. Others will rage at the league for being unnecessarily punitive.
This is one of those situations where there really aren’t any winners. The players that were scouted and signed will see their MLB dreams delayed, if not entirely ended. The team now has to replace top scouts and organization members. And the fans are left wondering … what next?
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.