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Braves' Illegal International Class Had Little Payoff For Huge Risk

Kevin-Maitan-2017-Cliff-Welch
Kevin Maitan (photo by Cliff Welch)

One of the reasons the Braves were hit with a two-year international signing ban and then-general manager John Coppolella was permanently suspended from baseball was Major League Baseball’s findings that the Braves signed international players to package deals in 2015 to ensure that they would be able to sign their top international targets in 2016.

MLB found the Braves signed some of their 2015 international signees to smaller-than-agreed-to-deals and then shuffled the money to international free agents who were old enough to not be subject to the bonus restrictions.

That meant the Braves avoided the signing restrictions that came with exceeding a team’s international bonus allotment, which freed them up to sign their highly vaunted 2016 international class.

MLB declared Kevin Maitan, Livan Soto, Abrahan Gutierrez, Yefri Del Rosario, Yunior Severino, Juan Contreras, Yenci Pena, Juan Carlos Negret and Guillermo Zuniga free agents from that 2016 class.

Five seasons later, it looks like the Braves’ illegality was a lot of effort for very little potential payoff. 

This is the first year that eight of the nine players from the Braves’ 2016 signing class are Rule 5 eligible. (Negret signed late enough that he will not be eligible until next season). Of the eight players declared free agents, zero were added to 40-man rosters and protected from the Rule 5 draft.

Contreras has been released. The other seven are all available in the major league portion of this year’s Rule 5 draft. It’s very possible none will be picked. Del Rosario, a righthander for the Royals, is the most likely to hear his name called.

The Braves had to almost completely sit out the 2019 and 2020 international signing classes because of their illegal deals from 2015-2017. They were banned from signing any players for more than $10,000 and had their allotment reduced by 50% for 2021.

In hindsight, it looks like the Braves took on a whole lot of risk that wouldn’t have led to a big payoff even if they hadn’t been caught.

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Baseball America Prospect Report -- July 23, 2019

Ethan Hankins, Thomas Szapucki, and Geraldo Perdomo shine in today's prospect report.

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