MLB strips Atlanta Braves of 12 prospects, bans former GM for life

The Atlanta Braves were stripped of 12 prospects, and their former general manager was banned from baseball for life on Tuesday, the most significant penalties in an unprecedented punishment for what the league said was a three-year circumvention of international signing rules.

The 12 prospects are free to sign with any other team. The most heralded among them, Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, 17, signed for $4.25 million in 2016, when he was ranked by Baseball America as the top international amateur prospect.

John Coppolella, who resigned as the Braves’ general manager last month amid the league investigation, joins Pete Rose (betting scandal), former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa (hacking scandal) and former New York Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia (three violations of drug policy) on baseball’s permanently ineligible list.

Alex Anthopoulos, who left the Dodgers’ front office this month to take Coppolella’s job, must rebuild the Braves without those prospects and with these additional sanctions: The Braves forfeit their third-round pick in the 2018 draft, they cannot sign an international player for more than a $10,000 bonus in the 2019-20 window and their bonus pool for international signings in the 2020-21 window is cut by 50%.

The Dodgers, Angels and other teams have exceeded their bonus pools for signing international amateurs at various times, well aware that the result would be a severe reduction on what they could offer international amateurs for the subsequent two years.

What the Braves did in 2015, according to a statement from Commissioner Rob Manfred, was to evade the pool limits by saying the prospects had signed for less than what the Braves actually paid. The difference was made up, Manfred said, by taking money from the purported bonus of a player not subject to those limits.

The Braves also evaded the limits in 2016 and 2017 by paying “inflated bonuses” to player agents for lesser prospects in exchange for desired prospects signing at a lower amount.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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