Atlanta Braves Lose Prospects And Have Former GM Banned From Baseball

Written by the AP at ESPN.com

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 2017.

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 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 funneled extra signing bonus money to five players in 2015-16 by giving the funds first to another player considered a foreign professional under baseball’s rules and having the money redistributed to the other five. If the money had been counted for the other five, the Braves would have exceeded their pool by more than 5 percent and been restricted to signing bonuses of $300,000 or under for international amateurs through June 15, 2019.

Because of that, MLB voided the contracts of nine players the Braves would have been ineligible to sign: Venezuelan infielder Kevin Maitan ($4.25 million signing bonus), Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez ($3.53 million), Dominican shortstop Yunior Severino ($1.9 million), Dominican right-hander Juan Contreras ($1.2 million), Dominican shortstop Yenci Peña ($1.05 million), Dominican right-hander Yefri del Rosario ($1 million), Cuban outfielder Juan Carlos Negret ($1 million), Venezuelan shortstop Livan Soto ($1 million) and Colombian right-hander Guillermo Zuniga ($350,000).

Three players the Braves signed for $300,000 bonuses were set free because the Braves gave additional money to their agents by signing others to deals with what MLB called “inflated” bonuses: Venezuelan outfielder Antonio Sucre, Dominican outfielder Brandol Mezquita and Dominican shortstop Angel Rojas.

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John Coppolella Resigns From Braves GM Position

Written by ESPN News Staff at ESPN.com

Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella, who oversaw the construction of baseball’s top-rated farm system, was forced to resign Monday after an investigation by Major League Baseball revealed serious rules violations in the international player market.

The Braves announced Coppolella’s resignation Monday, citing a “breach of Major League Baseball rules regarding the international player market.” Gordon Blakeley, a special assistant to the GM who was the team’s international scouting chief, also has resigned.

Coppolella’s surprising resignation came just two years and one day after he was promoted to GM and signed a four-year contract. John Hart, the Braves’ president of baseball operations, will perform GM duties until the team hires a replacement for Coppolella.

Sources confirmed to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that multiple team executives have filed complaints with the commissioner’s office recently over Coppolella’s conduct, and that MLB is investigating Coppolella for a number of infractions in areas beyond the international realm.

One source told Crasnick that the breach of etiquette regarding the international player market could be just “the tip of the iceberg.” Yahoo! Sports, which first reported the scope of the investigation Monday, also reported that the probe includes Atlanta’s domestic draft practices.

Hart said during a news conference Monday that the Braves cooperated with MLB when they first learned of the investigation “in the past couple weeks.” He wouldn’t reveal details of the rules violations but he did say they did not involve criminal activity.

Hart didn’t know if the Braves would be penalized by MLB, but he acknowledged there was no agreement for lesser organizational penalties in exchange for Coppolella’s resignation.

“We didn’t bargain, if you will, on that,” Hart said. “The decision that was made here internally was it just wasn’t right and it wasn’t going to fit for what worked with the Braves going forward.”

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