Major League Baseball has decided that the Atlanta Braves will forfeit 12 prospects as part of their punishment for circumventing rules regarding the limits on what teams can spend to sign international prospects, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo. Most notable among the lost players—who will immediately become free agents—is 17-year-old shortshop Kevin Maitan, who was Baseball America’s No. 1 international prospect in 2016.
A hard, low limit is set on how much MLB teams can spend on these international signings, usually around $4 to $6 million per year for an entire class (though teams can acquire more money from other teams through trades). Obviously, this is a cruel and unfair way to take money away from young athletes who need it and give it to owners who don’t, and there’s nothing truly unethical about the Braves sneaking some too-high signing bonuses through the system.
But rules are rules, and as a result of getting caught for something that many teams reportedly also do, the Atlanta farm teams will take a big hit. In addition to losing 12 players, the money that the Braves will be allowed to spend on international prospects will be severely restricted over the next several seasons. In the next two signing periods (2017-18 and 2018-19), Atlanta won’t be allowed to spend more than $300,000 for any player. In 2019-20, they won’t be allowed to spend more than $10,000 per player, and in 2020-21, the team’s international signing pool will be cut in half from its initial expected amount of $4.75 million.
Braves GM John Coppolella has already resigned due to the rule-breaking, as has as a team scout. President of Baseball Operations John Hart also stepped down after the hiring of new GM Alex Anthopoulos. Maitan and the 11 other former Braves, meanwhile, at least get to keep the millions that Atlanta paid them in signing bonuses. On top of that, most of them will draw interest from other teams, which will be able to offer them new contracts out of their own international money pools.