Braves get Scott Linebrink from White Sox for Kyle Cofield

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No doubt looking to shed some salary after signing Adam Dunn and re-signing A.J. Pierzynski yesterday, the White Sox have traded veteran reliever Scott Linebrink to the Braves for mid-level pitching prospect Kyle Cofield.

Chicago will reportedly send some cash to Atlanta to cover part of the one season and $5.5 million left on Linebrink’s four-year, $19 million deal and he’ll slot into the Braves’ bullpen as a setup man.

He posted a strong 147/48 K/BB ratio in three seasons in Chicago, including a 52/17 mark in 57 innings this year, but Linebrink struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark while serving up 28 homers in 160 innings and had ERAs of 4.40, 4.66, and 3.69.

Moving from the AL to the NL and from Chicago’s power-boosting ballpark to Atlanta’s pitcher-friendly home will definitely help hide Linebrink’s long-ball weaknesses, and he should be a solid (if overpaid) seventh-inning setup man.

In exchange for Linebrink the White Sox get some payroll flexibility and minor leaguer Kyle Cofield, a 2005 eighth-round pick whom Baseball America ranked as the 24th-best prospect in the Braves’ farm system. A ground-ball pitcher with poor strikeout and K/BB numbers, he currently projects as a potential middle reliever down the road.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.