Atlanta Braves 2020-21 International Signing Preview
This is part of Ben Badler's 2020-21 international signing day preview. You can also find his international big board of 2020 prospects here.
The Braves are still paying the price for their international signing violations. Those penalties stemmed from the Braves signing players in multiple package deals over multiple years in bundling arrangements that Major League Baseball determined to be bonus pool circumvention. MLB also said the Braves offered "extra-contractual compensation" to sign Korean shortstop Ji-Hwan Bae, whose contract with the Braves was ultimately never approved and he ended up signing with the Pirates instead.
As part of their penalties, the Braves had their bonus pool reduced to $0 for the previous 2019-20 signing period, which opened July 2, 2019 and was extended through Oct. 15, 2020 due to the pandemic. Bonuses of $10,000 or less are exempt from the bonus pools, so the Braves were still able to make a handful of small signings in that bracket.
For the upcoming 2020-21 signing period that's now delayed until Jan. 15, 2021, the Braves face their final year of penalties, with their bonus pool reduced by 50 percent of their original allocation. The Braves also lost $1 million from their bonus pool in January 2020 when they signed free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who turned down a qualifying offer from the Cardinals.
With MLB also freezing the aggregate bonus pools at the 2019 levels, that leaves the Braves with a $1,572,000 pool, the lowest in baseball by a significant margin. Particularly damaging for the Braves is that MLB also changed the rules in March so that teams are no longer allowed to trade their bonus pool space. Until MLB changed that rule during the pandemic, teams were allowed to trade for an additional 60 percent of their original pool allocation, so the Braves could have traded up to get a $2,515,200 pool.
MLB changing the rules in March to prohibit bonus pool trades has affected several clubs and players, but it hits particularly hard for the Braves, who are limited to the $1,572,000 amount. So rather than being able to sign two of the top players in the class, the Braves will probably only be able to land one, with Dominican shortstop Yeferson Tineo now expected to sign with the Rangers instead of the Braves.
The big name the Braves are expected to sign now is Ambioris Tavarez, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic, with a bonus expected to take nearly all of Atlanta's pool space. Tavarez stood out for his bat sped, raw power and strong arm, with a lot of scouts projecting a position change in his future, possibly to third base or a corner outfield spot.