MLB Baseball

Braves lose 13 players due to signing violations

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- Major League Baseball came down hard on the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday for multiple violations of the international amateur signing rules, making 13 players who had previously signed with the organization free agents.

MLB will also dock the Braves a third-round pick in the 2018 amateur draft after the team offered extra benefits to 41st overall pick Drew Waters last year. Waters, however, will be able to remain with Atlanta.

"My office has completed a thorough investigation into violations of Major League Rules by the Atlanta Braves," MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said in a statement Tuesday. "The Braves cooperated throughout the investigation, which was conducted by MLB's Department of Investigations. The senior Baseball Operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves."

The league determined that the Braves had packaged international signing bonuses during the two-year signing period from 2016-18, which is in violation of MLB rules.

"Today, Major League Baseball informed the Atlanta Braves organization of sanctions being levied as a result of their investigation. As MLB stated, the Braves cooperated fully throughout this investigation and we understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down," the team said in a statement.

"As we expressed last week, our organization has not lived up to the standard our fans expect from us and that we expect from ourselves. For that, we apologize. We are instituting the changes necessary to prevent this from ever happening again and remain excited about the future of Braves baseball. We do not plan to comment further on this matter."

MLB stated that Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Kevin Maitan, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto, Guillermo Zuniga, Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre were illegally signed during the two-year span.

"The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason's agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation," Manfred's statement read.

Of the 13 players declared free agents, nine were from the 2016-17 signing period and three were from the 2017-18 period -- including prized 17-year-old Venezuelan prospect Maitan.

Maitan and the other players will be allowed to sign with the remaining 29 MLB teams, who can use their leftover money from the current signing period or dip into next year's pool to sign them.

In the 2019-20 international signing period, the Braves will be limited to spending $10,000 per player and will not be allowed to sign the 14-year-old Puason of the Dominican Republic, who the team had reached an agreement with, because he is too young.

The Braves' estimated signing-bonus pool of $4.75 million for the 2020-21 season will also be cut in half by the league.

The scandal cost former Braves general manager John Coppolella and team scout Gordon Blakeley their jobs and also led to the resignation of Atlanta president of baseball operations John Hart.

Coppolella has been placed on MLB's permanently ineligible list, banning him from working in the league, and Blakeley was suspended for one year.

"I intend to discipline other Braves' International Baseball Operations employees who participated in the misconduct after the completion of our internal procedures," Manfred said. "My staff will speak to the Players Association and officials in the Dominican Republic regarding appropriate consequences for the representatives of the players who intentionally participated in schemes to circumvent our rules, none of whom are certified by the Players Association."

Atlanta, which posted a 72-90 record in 2017 to finish third in the National League East, hired former Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos to serve in the same position on Nov. 13.

Updated November 21, 2017

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2017 by STATS.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.