Former Braves GM Coppolella reinstated by MLB

January 9th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Major League Baseball has reinstated former Braves general manager John Coppolella.

Coppolella was placed on the permanently ineligible list on Nov. 21, 2017, because of infractions committed on the international market and in relation to the domestic Draft. His reinstatement was confirmed via this MLB statement on Monday.

“We can confirm that Mr. Coppolella has been reinstated, given the more than five years he spent on the ineligible list, the contrition he expressed and the other steps he took in response to this matter.”

Coppolella was named the Braves GM at the end of the 2014 season and remained in that role until resigning on Oct. 2, 2017, when it was revealed MLB was in the midst of what proved to be a very thorough investigation that revealed significant wrongdoing.

MLB found the Braves had circumvented the international signing rules during each of the previous three signing periods.

When the Braves exceeded their international bonus pool by more than $11 million in 2016, they gained what was considered to be that year's top signing class. The sanctions including forfeiting nine players from that class, including Kevin Maitan, a highly-regarded 17-year-old infielder who had been ranked the Atlanta's fifth-best prospect by MLB Pipeline, and catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, who had ranked as Atlanta's 30th-best prospect. At the time, Maitan received a bonus of $4.25 million and Gutierrez and bonus of $3.53 million.

During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves submitted signing bonus figures that were lower than the agreement that had been reached with the signed player. The players received the additional money via the inflated signing bonus given to another player exempt from the signing pool because he qualified as a "foreign professional."

If the Braves would have signed the five players to contracts including their actual bonuses, they would have exceeded their signing pool by more than 5 percent and thus would have been restricted from signing a player for more than $300,000 during either of the next two signing periods.

As a result, MLB determined that each of the nine players who signed for more than $300,000 should be declared free agents. This included Maitan; Gutierrez; pitchers Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario and Guillermo Zuniga; outfielder Juan Carlos Negret; and infielders Yenci Peña, Yunior Severino and Livan Soto.

MLB also nullified the signings of Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre after finding they were part of "package deals." Within such agreements, a player receives a reduced signing bonus and the additional money is filtered to the player's agent via inflated bonuses given to other clients.

The loss of the third-round selection in the 2018 MLB Draft came as a result of MLB finding an offer made to a player in an attempt to persuade him to sign for a lower bonus. While there were reports that 2017 second-round selection Drew Waters was offered a car, the penalty did not necessarily directly relate to this infraction.

The news was first reported by Jayson Stark of The Athletic.