Ex-Braves GM banned; team loses prospects

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Updated: November 21, 2017

ATLANTA — The Braves lost 13 prospects and former general manager John Coppolella was banned for life by Major League Baseball on Tuesday for circumventing international signing rules from 2015 to ’17.

Former Atlanta special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team’s international scouting chief, was suspended from baseball for one year by commissioner Rob Manfred.

Sanctions imposed by Manfred will leave the Braves unable to bargain at full strength for a top Latin American prospect until 2021.

Manfred said MLB’s investigation determined the Braves moved international signing bonus pool money from one player to boost another player’s contract.

Most notable among the players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016.

Other “high-value” players the Braves will lose include Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Peña, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga.

Three more international signees — Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre — were declared free agents. The team’s contract with prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, which was not yet final, was disapproved. Finally, the Braves were banned from signing prospect Robert Puason in the 2019-20 signing period.

The 13 players will be free to negotiate as free agents with other teams.

Braves lose more than talent in MLB crackdown on international market abuses

Turning 13 minor leaguers into free agents for Atlanta’s violation of rules on signing foreign talent isn’t the end of MLB’s new enforcement efforts.

Also, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 draft as punishment for offering “impermissible benefits” to an unnamed draft pick in an effort to convince him to sign for a lower bonus.

The investigation showed the players signed by the Braves in 2016-17 would have been unavailable if the team had not circumvented the rules by moving bonus pool money.

Manfred said stripping the Braves of the 13 players was not sufficient punishment. He said “additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the club for the violations committed by its employees.”

Therefore, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period. Also, the team’s international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.

The Braves already cannot give an international signing bonus of more than $300,000 for 2017-18 and 2018-19 as penalties for exceeding their signing bonus pools under baseball’s previous labor contract.

And there is still more discipline to be handed down.

Manfred said he intends “to discipline other Braves international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct.”

Coppolella, 39, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

He was forced to resign after his 11th season with the Braves and second full year as general manager. He began his time with the Braves in 2006 when he oversaw quantitative analysis and baseball information initiatives.

Coppolella, a magna cum laude graduate of Notre Dame in business management, was hired by the New York Yankees as a baseball operations assistant in 2000. He spent seven years with the Yankees, including time as assistant director of pro scouting.

Coppolella was credited with helping to improve the Braves’ farm system, which was rated No. 1 this year by Baseball America.

Former team president John Hart was moved to a senior adviser role when a new general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, was hired on Nov. 13. Hart left the team on Friday.

“The senior baseball operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves,” Manfred said. He also said the Braves “cooperated throughout the investigation.”

The Braves braced fans for the sanctions when team chairman Terry McGuirk apologized to fans “on behalf of the entire Braves family” for the rules violations at the news conference to introduce Anthopoulos.

The Braves said in a statement released Tuesday they “understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down.

Boston Red Sox lost five players and were banned from signing international amateur free agents for one year as punishment for rules violations on signing bonuses.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/21506598/ex-atlanta-braves-gm-john-coppolella-placed-mlb-banned-list-team-loses-prospects