MLB's punishment of the Braves leaves lingering questions

MLB's punishment of the Braves leaves lingering questions

Former Braves GM John Coppolella, who resigned from the position in October after MLB opened an investigation into his team's worldwide signing practices, has been hammered the hardest, teceiving a lifetime ban from the sport for his role in the "violations of Major League Rules", commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement Tuesday.

In an unprecedented punishment, the Major League Baseball also said it would dock the Braves a third-round pick in next year's amateur draft, while barring the team from signing any worldwide player for more than US$10,000 in the 2019-2020 window. Most notable among them is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016.

The Dodgers, Angels and other teams have exceeded their bonus pools for signing global amateurs at various times, well aware that the result would be a severe reduction on what they could offer worldwide amateurs for the subsequent two years. The team's ability to sign players in Latin America over the next few years has been severely restricted.

Former Braves special assistant Gordon Blakeley was also suspended for a year, with Manfred saying, "I intend to discipline other Braves' International Baseball Operations employees who particpated in the misconduct after the completion of our internal procedures". Finally, the team will be banned from signing 14-year-old Robert Puason after illegally reaching an agreement. He reported that the Braves had broken several rules, with the most severe being the packaging of signing bonuses. He will remain with Atlanta.

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The Braves have been in rebuilding mode, relying on younger prospects. It's not just that the Braves are the latest team to run afoul of the rules governing global free agency; their blatant disregard, the investigation found, went beyond that of the Boston Red Sox, who lost five players to free agency and were banned for a year from signing worldwide players for packaging players to skirt bonus-pool limitations, or the Pittsburgh Pirates, who last week declined to renew the contract of longtime Latin America scout Rene Gayo after a league investigation showed he received a kickback on the signing on a player from Mexico.

The Braves released a statement on the matter, accepting the punishment handed down to them by the league.

The first US$200,000 of a signing bonus will not count against a team's limit, but the US$300,000 maximum remains for teams subject to the penalty for exceeding their pool under the previous labor contract.

The Braves were forced to give up 12 prospects they had signed for an excess of $20 million due to their rule violations.

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