The general manager for the Atlanta Braves resigned today, October 2, 2017. John Coppolella leaves this position amid an investigation being conducted by Major League Baseball officials. This probe comes during many weeks of constant infighting within the Braves organization. This caused the MLB to examine several areas of the organization, including the Braves’ international operations, their domestic draft, and Coppolella’s treatment of the Braves’ employees for evidence of accusations of tampering, bundling in Latin American, under-the-table benefits given to at least one draft pick, and pre-draft deals struck months in advance.
The scheme for the alleged international misdeeds that the MLB is suggesting is similar to the same scheme that the Boston Red Sox were caught using in 2015-2016 except the magnitude of the Braves’ scheme is much greater. The scheme skirts the rules that limit a team to signing players for a maximum $300,000 bonus. The team would overpay for bonuses on lesser players represented by the same “overseas trainer,” who would then receive the extra money, essentially receiving a finder’s fee for the international player.
The MLB is planning on focusing the majority of the Braves’ open investigation into the signing of Kevin Maitan, a 17-year-old shortstop who received a $4.25 million bonus last year. If improprieties are discovered, then the player could be declared a free agent and the team may face further reprimands from the league, such as being banned from signing any international players.
The alleged domestic violations pale in comparison to the international allegations, but the alleged domestic misdeeds contain the use of under-the-table benefits to get players to sign for under the slot value. However, all of these allegations are going to be difficult to prove as agents could be hesitant to cooperate with the league because of the fear that they would be dragging their clients into an investigation.
According to many of his peers, Coppolella was neither a well-liked man nor general manager. He often disregarded rules and did whatever he wanted, which led to his ascent into a prominent role in the Braves’ organization. Coppolella ran the day-to-day operations of the team, and his forcefulness grew in the past year. This led to several anonymous accusations being filed against him, ultimately setting up this MLB investigation in his actions regarding the signing of several international players.
Braves employees saw the proud organization rotting from the inside, and they will most likely have further consequences to face without Coppolella at the helm being the only good news for the organization that has won their division title for 14 consecutive years. As we approach the end of the 2016-2017 MLB season, the Braves begin to close a dark chapter of their history and can start to look towards a brighter future.