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Inbox: Fallout from Braves penalties

November 24, 2017

So much for easing into the holiday weekend, huh?There sure was a lot of news earlier this week, from an agreement being made that will allow Shohei Ohtani to come to a Major League city near you in 2018, to the penalties levied against the Atlanta Braves as a result

So much for easing into the holiday weekend, huh?
There sure was a lot of news earlier this week, from an agreement being made that will allow Shohei Ohtani to come to a Major League city near you in 2018, to the penalties levied against the Atlanta Braves as a result of violations of the rules governing the international amateur market.
I had put out a call for Inbox questions at the start of the week, but given that my Twitter feed blew up about questions over all of the rules and stipulations regarding the dozen young prospects who are now suddenly free agents once again, I tried to answer as many of those as I could. However, I thought I'd use this Thanksgiving edition of Pipeline Inbox to take more time to answer questions about this fairly complicated process.
:: Submit a question to the Pipeline Inbox ::

I got a few questions about this. The quick answer is yes, they get to keep their original bonuses. The players who were made free agents were not involved in any wrong-doing, so there was no reason to penalize them by taking back any of their individual bonuses they got from the Braves. So, for instance, Kevin Maitan gets to keep all $4.25 million of his bonus.
Whether any of them will take less remains to be seen. The period for them to be able to sign starts on Dec. 5, and as per the rules laid out, they all need to find new agents/representation for the process. I could see some of them willing to take less to get a fresh start (not that they necessarily had any issues with Atlanta since signing), but I could also see an argument being made that if they're still as good as they were when they signed, why should they get less just because of what the Braves did? This will be an interesting storyline to watch.

They are indeed allowed to wait and sign, if they so choose. But they would have to wait until May 1 to do so. And you want to talk about "signing for less?" They are not allowed to get an additional signing bonus should they go back to the Braves organization.
Many people asked about the likelihood of this scenario playing out, perhaps with some players feeling comfortable with the player development staff in Atlanta and wanting to stay the course. I suppose it's possible (I learned long ago to never say never in this game), but I have to think it's unlikely. Not only is there the opportunity for financial gain by signing elsewhere, I'd also have to think that players, their families and their representatives might have a bad taste in their mouths after getting embroiled in this to begin with. Finally, not being able to prepare for the 2018 season until May thing is something that they might want to avoid.

This is one of the more interesting wrinkles in the rules laid out by Major League Baseball. A total of 12 teams are under penalty this year for going over spending limits in past international signing periods. That means that for this signing period, they are able to only offer $300,000 to any specific prospect. That is true even with a $200,000 exemption given for signing any of these prospects, with the first $200K not counting toward a team's bonus pool. At first, I took this to mean these teams could then offer these players $500K, but I had it wrong. The cap is still $300K, but only $100K would count toward their spending pool.
Here's the wrinkle: Teams have the option of counting bonuses given to any of these former Braves toward this year's pool or next year's. They can't split one prospect's bonus over two years, but it does provide some flexibility, especially since many teams have used large percentages of their pools this period that started back in July.. That's particularly true for teams who are under penalty this year, but not next. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals are in their second year of the penalty, so they will go back to regular spending for the 2018-19 season. They might have been limited in pursuing these prospects, but now can do so more aggressively by choosing to use next year's bonus pool.
It also could potentially allow a team to go after Ohtani and some of these players. While it is clear the Japanese phenom isn't coming because of signing-bonus potential, one of the teams with a sizable pool -- like the Rangers or Yankees, for instance -- could offer Ohtani $3.5 million this year, then sign Maitan or one of the others with next year's money.
Can [INSERT FAVORITE TEAM HERE] sign any of these players?
The large majority of questions I received were about whether a specific team had the ability to go after any of these prospects, and what their remaining bonuses are. Rather than respond to each individually, here's some info that can help. Here are the top 10 teams in terms of remaining bonus pool money. Teams with an asterisk are under penalty and can only spend $300K per player:
Rangers ($3,535,000)
Yankees ($3,500,000)
Twins ($3,070,000)
Pirates ($2,266,750)
Giants ($1,835,000) *
Mariners ($1,557,500)
Royals ($1,505,000) *
Marlins ($1,490,000)
Cardinals ($1,247,500) *
Braves ($1,210,000) *
In addition to this group, the Cubs and Dodgers are under penalty for this year only, while the White Sox, Astros, A's, Reds, Nationals and Padres are in their first year under penalty. Any team can try to sign any of these players, but might be limited to the $300K cap.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.