The signing of the Braves International Agreement in the past decade has cost many people their jobs.
General Manager John Coppolela resigned and was later banned for life by Major League Baseball after a league investigation found the club deliberately circumvented international signing rules. Special Assistant Gordon Blakely has been suspended for a year. Baseball chief of operations John Hart resigned in the wake of the scandal.
The organization was stripped of the 12 international opportunities it had signed, banned from signing additional high-profile international players it had agreed to deal with and its international bonus pools were severely restricted for two years. He was also stripped from the third-round draft after a league investigation ruled that the Braves had violated the draft rules as well.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part of all of this is that it is now clear that the brave players who did their best to sign did not deserve it.
Shortstop Lifan Soto became the first of the 12 former Braves internationals to reach the majors over the weekend, making his debut as a sprinter for the Angels on Saturday and going 2-3 with a home run on his first start. Sunday. Soto has emerged as a back-up or useful player this season, making him the best out of 12 prospects MLB named Braves in violation of the rules.
Aside from Soto, here’s how other former Braves prospects declared free agents as a result of the scandal:
Kevin Maitan, the highest-rated international player at the time, swelled from £175 to £222 within two years after being signed and lost his ability to play sports and his mobility. It now weighs more than 250 pounds and hits .261/.338/.399 with 11 points on the ground and 45 RBI for Double-A Rocket City in the Angels system this year. Residents haven’t considered it a possibility for years.
Righthander Yefri Del Rosario is a loyalist in the Royals system and has posted 4.58 ERAs in 45 appearances with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha this year. He allowed more than one stroke per half, averaged less than one stroke per inning and allowed an opponent’s slash of .274/.349/.452. It is not among the top 30 odds in Royals.
Junior Severino walked away from Shortstop immediately after signing, and now splits his time between second and third base in the Twins system. He hit .278/.370/.536 with 19 home points and 65 RBI points between High-A Cedar Rapids and Double-A Wichita this year and he has shown offensive promise, but his body has thickened and he’s become a below average defender at second base And the third. It does not rank among the top 30 possibilities for twins.
Catcher Abrahan Gutierrez signed with Phillies after being declared a free agent and traded with Pirates on the 2021 trade deadline for Triple-A left Braeden Ogle. He hit .257/.356/.411 with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs this year for High-A Greensboro, who plays in the extreme park hitter, and has spent nearly as many games as DH (42) as he did in the catcher ( 45). It ranks as a #26 prospect in the Pirates and ranks as a reserve catcher for the future, at best.
Outfieler player Brandol Mezquita has re-signed with the Braves and is the only one of 12 signers left in their system. He hit the .268 by three home runs in Low-A Augusta and High-A Rome this season and hasn’t shown the ability to sway the ball in the air, though he has more speed and the ability to play all three positions. He ranks as the 18th potential player in the Braves and has a chance to be a backup player.
Defender Juan Carlos Negret hit .222/.297/.441 with 18 home points and 68 RBI at High-A Quad Cities in the Royals’ system this year. While he has great strength, he is a career .213 hitter in the minor leagues and has never shown the ability to make enough contact. It is not among the top 30 odds in Royals.
Shortstop Yenci Pena has struggled with injuries and hit .204/.326/.290 with three home runs and 17 RBI in 64 games between Low-A Hickory and High-A Down East this year. He does not rank among the top 30 prospects for Rangers.
Righthander Guillermo Zuniga is a Dodgers mitigator and had a 4.77 ERA with 11 saves for Double-A Tulsa this year. He does not rank among the top 30 potential dodgers.
Shortstop Angel Rojas signed with the Yankees and never got past the complex leagues in three seasons. He hit 0.143 in nine FCL games at the junior level this year and is no longer among the Yankees’ top 30 predictors.
Righthander Juan Contreras signed with The Angels but was released after just six entries into the Arizona Junior League in 2019. He hasn’t played professionally since.
Outfielder Antonio Sucre has re-signed with the Braves eight months after being declared a free agent. The Braves released him in 2019 and have not played professionally since.
Additionally, the league canceled deals the Braves had with shortstop Ji-Hwan Bae and Robert Puason. Bay hit .287 with eight home runs, 52 RBIs and 27 base steals for Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pirates system this year, but expects to be a useful player rather than a novice. He was also suspended for 30 matches in 2019 after a South Korean court found him guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Puason hit .185 in a recurring season at Low-A Stockton and was demoted to the Arizona Complex League in June.
The remaining active signers are still in their early twenties and have pretty much up front careers, but none of them are planning to be an influential player. Moreover, the Braves didn’t need players – either as major league contributors or potential business capital – to become world champions.
The brave players violated international signing rules to get by and largely failed to live up to the hype that accompanied their signature, and their loss had no bearing on the organization’s ability to become a contender for the tournament.
In the end, those involved in Braves’ international abuses paid a heavy price for few rewards.
The illegal international brave class had little payoff for so much risk
As we prepare for Draft Rule 5, it is clear that the risk was not worth the potential reward.