Major League Baseball has severely penalized the Atlanta Braves as a result of the investigation into the Braves international signings that found the team circumvented rules from 2015 through 2017.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement the punishment includes declaring 12 minor leaguers, including star youngster Kevin Maitan as free agents. Former Braves general manager John Coppolella will be placed on the permanently ineligible list, and former Braves special assistant Gordon Blakeley will be suspended for a period of one year.
According to the statement, Atlanta signed nine players during the 2016–2017 period that would not have been available if the team had accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015–2016 period. Those nine players were Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Kevin Maitan, Juan Carlos Negret,Yenci Pena, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga. The Braves also signed agreements with Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre for reduced amounts.
All 12 have been released as free agents.
The Braves will also have significant restrictions in the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 international classes. The team will not be allowed to sign top 2019 prospect Robert Puason, with who the Braves allegedly struck an illegal deal. Atlanta will also lose a third-round draft pick in 2018.
The contract between the Braves and shortstop Ji-hwanBae has also been disapproved.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the results of the investigation.
The news comes about two months after Coppolella announced his resignation amid the investigation. Coppolella committed "a breach of MLB rules regarding the international player market." He was in charge for only three seasons.
Braves president of baseball operations John Hart also stepped down as an indirect result of the invetigation.
The Braves have been in rebuilding mode, relying on younger prospects.
Atlanta finished the year at 72–90 and third place in the NL East after going 68–93 in 2016.
Alex Anthopoulos is the team's new general manager.