John Coppolella spoke confidently in August about the future of the Atlanta Braves and the efforts of their front office to resurrect the sagging franchise.
“You do this to win a long time,” Coppolella, the Braves’ general manager at the time, said in an interview at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park. “For us, we’re the top-ranked system, and it’s not even close.”
As it turned out, however, some of the players in that farm system were acquired in violation of Major League Baseball’s rules, and on Tuesday Coppolella paid the price. M.L.B. barred Coppolella for life for violating international signing rules and declared 13 Braves prospects to be free agents. The players the Braves lost included Kevin Maitan, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop who signed in July 2016 for $4.25 million.
Baseball allows teams a specified bonus pool amount to spend on international amateurs. If a team exceeds its figure by more than 5 percent, it cannot sign any player for more than $300,000 for the next two years. An M.L.B. investigation found that the Braves had effectively underreported their signings from the 2015-16 period by inflating the bonus of a lesser prospect who was not subject to the bonus-pool rules. They then funneled much of his money to the better prospects who had signed within the rules.