Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Or something like that.
According to Ken Rosenthal, as MLB nears the punishment phase in its investigation of improprieties in the Braves organization regarding international free agency, the crackdown could be severe:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 16, 2017
We still don’t know exactly what the Braves are alleged to have done, though we know that it cost a couple top front office employees – including former GM John Coppolella – their jobs (and according to some rumors, their chances of ever working in MLB again). But Rosenthal’s piece suggests it was significant enough for the punishment to include the loss of prospects, at a minimum.
When MLB dealt with Boston’s IFA shenanigans last year, they removed the five at-issue prospects from the Red Sox organization (let them keep their signing bonuses), and made them free agents. Moreover, the Red Sox were banned from signing *any* international prospects in the 2016-17 IFA period. It was considered a severe punishment for using “package” deals to get around other IFA restrictions. (Note that it was especially severe when compared with, for example, the sweet caress on the wrist that the Cardinals got FOR HACKING ANOTHER MLB TEAM.)
Where the Braves story could get really crazy is if a whole bunch of the prospects they signed in the at-issue period (2016-17) suddenly become free agents. That could include infielder Kevin Maitan, who received a Venezuelan record $4.25 million bonus, and was considered a generational-type talent coming out of Venezuela. If the 17-year-old shortstop suddenly became a free agent, it would throw the international market for yet another loop in an offseason that already features a loop a day courtesy of Shohei Ohtani.
The prospects the Braves lose, by the way, will still be subject to IFA signing restrictions. So, for example, if Maitan became a free agent, he would be able to sign for however much teams have left in their bonus pools (or, with a team like the Cubs, who are in the penalty box, for a maximum $300,000 bonus). Given that most teams have spent up their pools and/or could be reserving what they have left for Ohtani, might Maitan decide to wait until the next IFA period opens up on July 2 to sign a new deal? He would likely get to keep the $4.25 million bonus he got from the Braves, so it’s not like he’ll be hard up for cash in the immediate term. Wishful thinking, I suppose, but it would be nice if the Cubs were able to get involved.
In any case, Maitan is by far the biggest name implicated in the scandal, but there would be other prospects suddenly made available, and for *most* IFA prospects, being able to over up to $300,000 at this time of year is a really substantial amount. The Braves’ loss might be the Cubs’ – and other teams’ – gain.
Per reports earlier this month, punishment is expected to be handed down in December.