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MLB Rumors: Atlanta Braves hit with sanctions, including Kevin Maitan free agency

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The Atlanta Braves have been hit with substantial sanctions for illicit activity in the international free agency market, including 12 players being declared free agents

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

MLB Rumors: The Atlanta Braves are expected to lose players from their farm system, including big dollar 2016 signee Kevin Maitan, pursuant to a ruling from MLB coming today, according to Jon Heyman. MLB has been investigating the Braves in regards to an ongoing scandal over improprieties in Latin America which cost general manager John Coppolella his job. Ben Badler says the top four players signed from the 2016 J-2 class — Kevin Maitan, Abrahan Gutierrez, Yunior Severino and Juan Contreras — will be among those declared free agents.

This has potential significance for the Texas Rangers, as any players who are made free agents would still be subject to the J-2 bonus restrictions, and the Rangers are, along with the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins, the teams with the most money still available in their J-2 pool.

The Rangers’ focus, of course, is to use that money to entice Shohei Ohtani to sign, assuming he is posted. But should Ohtani sign elsewhere, the Rangers would then be in a position to outbid any other team for any players from the Atlanta system declared free agents.

Maitan, 17, was considered a top 100 prospect in baseball heading into 2017, and is the #5 prospect in the Braves’ system per MLB Pipeline. The shortstop’s star has fallen this year, however, with a disappointing stateside debut.

Gutierrez is a catcher out of Venezuela who just turned 18 years old, and who put up a .264/.319/.357 slash line for the Braves’ rookie league team. Severino also just turned 18, and is a second baseman who split his season between the DSL and rookie ball, placing 15th in the BA top 20 prospect list for the Gulf Coast League. Contreras is an 18 year old righthanded pitcher who was in rookie ball this year.

UPDATE — Per Jeff Passan, 12 Braves prospects will become free agents. In addition, Passan says the Braves will have significant restrictions on their ability to sign free agents in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 free agent classes, as well as lose a third round pick in the 2018 draft. The loss of the draft pick in 2018 is apparently as a sanction for illegal inducements offered to shortstop Drew Waters, who the Braves selected with the #41 overall pick in 2017, though Waters isn’t becoming a free agent.

UPDATE II — MLB has announced the sanctions, and they are severe. Twelve prospects in the Braves system have been declared free agents, and the Braves will not be able to sign a player to more than a $10,000 bonus in the 2019-20 J-2 signing period, and will lose one-half of their international bonus money in the 2020-21 J-2 signing period. In addition, former general manager John Coppella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — one of just four people on the list, along with Chris Correa, Jennry Mejia and Pete Rose — another front office executive has received a one year suspension, and the Braves have lost their third round draft pick in 2018.