Major League Baseball has lifted its previous “lifetime” ban on former Braves general manager John Coppolella, reports Jayson Stark of The Athletic. Coppolella has spent the past five years on the league’s ineligible list in the wake of heavy sanctions for violating rules regarding both international free agency and the annual amateur draft. A league spokesperson tells Stark that Coppolella was 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 released his own statement:
“I want to thank Commissioner Manfred for granting my application for removal from the Ineligible List. I am deeply appreciative of so many people who have been involved in this process, including (executive vice president of legal and operations) Bryan Seeley and (senior vice president of investigations and deputy general counsel) Moira Weinberg at Major League Baseball. I deeply regret and accept accountability for my actions. I want to again apologize to the Atlanta Braves organization, Major League Baseball, its fans, and especially my family and friends. I am grateful for this decision and will strive each day to honor this opportunity.”
At the time of Coppolella’s original ban, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that his investigation into the Braves’ dealings revealed the team underreported bonuses for five amateurs who were subject to international bonus pool restrictions. The Braves then overreported their bonus to an older, pool-exempt player and used that inflated bonus as a means of funneling additional money to the five amateurs in question.
Had the Braves reported the actual bonuses of the five amateurs in question, it’d have restricted them from signing an international amateur for more than $300K during either of the following two signing periods. Instead, the Braves were able to sign two of the top names on the international market a year later. The Braves also agreed to inflated signing bonuses with six amateurs represented by the agent for now-Athletics prospect Robert Puason, with the understanding that Puason would sign in Atlanta several years down the road. Atlanta also offered “extra-contractual compensation” to infielder Ji Hwan Bae (now with the Pirates) and “impermissible benefits” to an amateur draftee not named in Manfred’s statement but reported to be outfielder Drew Waters. You can read Manfred’s full statement on the matter here.
Ultimately, the Braves were stripped of 12 prospects, each of whom was immediately declared a free agent. Their deal with Bae, which had not been finalized at the time of the findings, was voided. The Braves also forfeited their third-round pick the in the subsequent amateur draft, were barred from signing an international amateur for more than $10K in the 2019-20 period, and were barred from signing the aforementioned Puason once he actually became a free agent.
It’s not clear at this time whether Coppolella will actually pursue a return to working in baseball, nor is it clear how many teams would be interested. The now-44-year-old Coppolella’s fingerprints are still on the Braves organization to this day, but there’d also surely be some PR implications for any team adding him to its baseball operations staff.