Major League Baseball has come down on the Atlanta Braves and they have come down hard. All of the players that the Braves had declared free agents is still not available, but we do know two of the names thus far: Kevin Maitan and Abrahan Gutierrez.

Those two players were Atlanta’s top two international signings from the 2016 class. Kevin Maitan was signed for a record $4.25M out of Venezuela. The team also paid plenty in penalties due to the signing – roughly $27M in total during the signing period. They also paid another $3.53M for Abrahan Gutierrez – the most ever for an international catching prospect.

When the two players signed, Kevin Maitan was considered one of the best prospects to hit the market in several years. Abrahan Gutierrez, however, was seen as a player that the Braves liked significantly more than other teams and was paid that way, too. Things have changed a little bit since then.

Kevin Maitan has outgrown the shortstop position already, despite being just 17-years-old. He also had some struggles in his professional debut – though to be fair he was playing stateside. It’s rare to see guys that young jump directly to the United States. After a brief stint in the Gulf Coast League the Braves got aggressive and pushed him to the Appalachian League. Between the two stops he hit .241/.290/.340 with 11 walks and 49 strikeouts in 42 games. Scouts still liked him, but the reports were not nearly the same as the ones we saw coming out when he hit the market as a free agent. There are some reasons for that, too. Teams knew he was going to sign with the Braves long before he actually signed, and stopped scouting him. Most reports at the time of his signing were already a year old. That’s an incredible amount of time between reports on a 16-year-old.

With all of that said, he’s still a very valuable player to grab. The Reds most likely don’t have a chance to sign him, unless for some reason he wants to join their organization and doesn’t care about another signing bonus (he gets to keep the one from the Braves). Cincinnati will still be limited to just $300,000 in how much they can offer a player.

Where can the Reds step in?

There’s a lot of dead money on the international market at this point in time. Most teams have spent what they are allowed to spend at this point. What is left is being shuffled around between a few teams that are still looking to make a play for Shohei Ohtani. That could put the Reds in the market for some of the other Braves prospects. With others having spent most of their money, little is left to make big offers here.

Abrahan Gutierrez may be out of their price range, too, but we will see. The 17-year-old catcher spent his season in the Gulf Coast League where he hit .264/.319/.357 in the pitching friendly league. He stood out behind the plate for his caught stealing rate of 38%. That stands out not only for the level in which it happened, where pitchers are notoriously poor at holding runners on, but also for a 17-year-old catcher.

As more names come out, assuming they do, the Reds could be players here. They shouldn’t be at much of a competitive advantages for the non-top end players. With most teams having spent most of their money, they won’t be able to offer big bonuses. While I’m sure they will not just sit back and not look into it, I believe it’s definitely an area they should be exploring.

Update: More names keep rolling in

Ben Badler of Baseball America continues his outstanding coverage. Joining the other two mentioned at Yunior Severino, a second baseman and righty Juan Contreras. They received big bonuses, as well. Severino signed for $1.9M, while Contreras signed for $1.2M.

As I was typing this more names were added. Shortstop Livan Soto and right hander Yefri del Rosario were declared free agents. Both signed for $1M.

Another Update: Significant penalties

Jeff Passan just sent this out, via twitter:

The additional players Passan speaks of aren’t yet known, but will come out soon. It sounds like they will be out of things on the international market for years. At least when it comes to being real players.

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports speculates this will lead to an international draft. His theory is that “it will cut down on cheating”. Which is just a way for owners to spend even less money on amateurs than they already are.

All of the players the Braves lost

Eno Sarris, may or may not have had the list first, but it was the first one that I saw. Here are the additional players that aren’t named above:

  • Ji-Hwan Bae – shortstop
  • Guillermo Zuniga – right handed pitcher
  • Juan Carlos Negret – outfielder
  • Antonio Sucre – outfielder
  • Brandol Mezquita – outfielder
  • Angel Rojas – outfielder

Ben Badler of Baseball America has updated his story, which is linked at the top of this page, to note the restrictions on these players signing:

They will be eligible to sign with another club for another signing bonus beginning on Dec. 5 up until Jan. 15. After Jan. 15, the player is still allowed to sign but cannot receive an additional signing bonus. Only the amount of the signing bonus beyond $200,000 will count toward a team’s signing bonus pool. Players are allowed to re-sign with the Braves, but if they choose to do so, they must wait until May 1 to sign with them and can’t receive an additional signing bonus.

Full Major League Baseball statement

One more update (10:30pm)

Above there was a note from Ben Badler that only money spent beyond $200,000 would be counted towards the pool allotment. It’s now been confirmed that teams in the penalty, such as the Cincinnati Reds, will still be limited to making offers of just $300,000. There was some speculation that these teams could offer up to $500,000 because of this stipulation, but that’s incorrect.

19 Responses

  1. Colorado Red

    You can add shortstop Yunior Severino and righty Juan Contreras to the list.
    (Per MLBTRADERUMORS.com)

  2. The Duke

    I wonder what Maitan would get if they declared all these players unrestricted free agents outside of the international pool.

  3. Stock

    Even with the loss of these 4 they have the best farm system in the majors this winter. Maitan is without a doubt top 200 prospect but probably in the 100 – 150 range.

  4. Blake Shell

    Just a question here, Doug, why are you against an international draft? I’ve seen you taking about that in the past. I mean I get the argument that people should get paid what they are worth or what others are willing to pay them but I think a draft would significantly cut down on cheating. I also think it helps make teams more evenly matched and gives the potentially best players to the worst teams. Just wondering why the disdain towards an international draft.

    • Doug Gray

      I’m against restricting the amount of money players are actually worth. The international draft, and even the current system limits how much these players can actually be paid versus what teams believe they are actually worth.

      • Doug Gray

        To expand a little more – it really bothers me because these rights are being negotiated without any input at all from those who it is effecting. And that, coupled with them making absolutely nothing (well, they do get paid, but it’s a laughable wage) in the minor leagues, it just really sits wrong with me.

      • MK

        Isn’t this similar to what happens to college seniors who are seldom paid what the are worth with a draft.

      • Doug Gray

        Not exactly. If a college senior is an elite player, they will get a huge bonus.

        Now, if you wanted to argue isn’t this is sort of like the amateur draft, then yes, it is, and I think it’s bullcrap, too.

  5. Billy

    Wow… I’m in shock. These are HUGE penalties. This makes the penalty given to the Cardinals for hacking the Astros seem like a slap on the wrist.

    As for the Reds, maybe there’s an opportunity here. According to the updated account at BA, money doesn’t count against a teams international pool until it exceeds $200,000. I don’t know if that means the Reds can go up to $500,000 to sign someone, or if it means the first $200,000 of any signing doesn’t count against the total pool for the 2017-2018 signing season. (I also thought I saw where teams can use 2018-2019 signing money instead, but that shouldn’t affect the Reds, as they’re in the penalty box for two seasons, I think.)

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t know either.

      I started writing about that, but decided to not publish my thoughts and reach out to someone who would know. I will update this once I hear back on exactly how teams in the penalty phase can go about things when it comes to that $200K/$500K situation.

    • redleggingfordayz

      I really do find it weird that the Cardinals in retrospect did not receive a greater punishment. MLB did really well on serving justice on this case, but it does leave me a little bit curious as to why they were so generous to our red bird rivals.

  6. MK

    There is a precedence for this type penalty. I the 40’s the Indians GM Si Slapnica signed a couple of future Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Lou Boudreau and both were later were declared free agents by Commissioner Landis after it was determined they both received payments from Indians before being eligible to sign. Afterwards both decided to re-sign with the Indians but could have gone elsewhere.

    • Doug Gray

      Yes and no. Different rules, different ways they went about skirting the rules. This is closer to what the Red Sox did, but way more involved.

  7. Hanawi

    Could be an interesting side angle to this news. Even if the Reds don’t target any of these players, my understanding is that they could trade some of their pool money. That money might be quite valuable as teams jockey for position with Otani and now Maitan available, and they could end up with a good piece otherwise.

    Could also lead to some other top guys falling down the list a bit and the Reds might be able to get them cheaper than they otherwise would.

  8. Colorado Red

    Not the top 1 or 2.
    But would think a few of better players may be around the 300K range.

  9. dbfromnva

    Interesting tidbit. For those of us who wanted the Reds to draft Drew Waters and were surprised when the Braves seemed to sign him for a lower price than expected there apparently was some other benefits slid to him under the table. He must have told teams drafting before the Braves that he wanted big money because he had a secret illegal deal with the Braves and wanted to go there. They are being docked a 3rd round pick for that.