Rays done with Pat the Bust?

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It certainly looked like one of the better signing of the offseason: after missing out on Milton Bradley, the Rays inked Pat Burrell to a two-year, $16 million contract to take over as their DH.  He was coming off four straight seasons with OPSs around 890 and he had averaged 153 games during those seasons.  Sure, there’d be a period of adjustment for him coming over to the AL, but he projected as a well above average DH and he’d come at a fair price.

 

Of course, things haven’t worked out that way.  Burrell hit .250/.349/.315 with one homer in 30 games before going down with a neck injury that cost him a month.  He entered the All-Star break at .232/.341/.347.  He did do solid work for a month and a half after that, coming in at .257/.335/.493 with nine homers and 27 RBI in a 40-game span through Sept. 2.  However, he’s hit .147/.238/.206 in 22 appearances since.

 

The truly remarkable thing is that Burrell has gone the whole year without a homer against a left-hander.  He’s hitting .207/.338/.259 in 116 at-bats against them.  All 14 of his bombs have come against righties.  Between 2005-08, Burrell had 38 homers in 587 at-bats versus southpaws.

 

Burrell’s career is at a crossroads now.  He’s obviously far more comfortable against National League pitching, yet his poor defense limits his value in the Senior Circuit.  The Rays figure to try to exchange him for another lousy contract over the winter.  Burrell for Bradley is one idea that will get tossed around.  The Cubs wouldn’t want Burrell, but since he’s only signed for one more year, they’d save $12 million as part of such a swap.  The Rays, though, would have big problems taking on that kind of salary for 2011 when so many of their young players will be big significant raises then.

 

Perhaps Burrell could be swapped for a reliever who has fallen out of favor.  Kyle Farnsworth in Kansas City and Scott Linebrink in Chicago would be a couple of possibilities.  The Rays would likely be better off keeping the 33-year-old and hoping for the best rather than taking on someone who would require a longer commitment.  They can always release him and dig up a DH elsewhere if he struggles out of the gate again in 2010.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many which have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of Major League Baseball’s castle.