Great news for the rest of the NL: Dodgers keep Ned Colletti around

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Sure, these new Dodgers may have as much buying power as any three other National League teams combined, but at least fans of other clubs can take heart that Ned Colletti will remain the one doing the spending after inking a mulityear contract extension on Saturday.

Colletti’s Dodgers have the NL’s third-best record since he took over the team in 2006, trailing the Phillies and Cardinals, but they’ve been soundly beaten both times they’ve advanced to the NLCS. They’ve had one 90-win season, that partly fueled by a strong Manny Ramirez campaign in between drug suspensions.

Ignoring the huge 2012 moves for a minute, the Ramirez acquisition is the second biggest the highlight of Colletti’s first six years at the helm. After giving up just Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris, the Dodgers got 223 games of a 1.012 OPS from Ramirez. They also got the baggage that came with it, and by the time mid-2010 rolled around, they were happy to see him gone.

The biggest highlight was Colletti’s first significant move in the offseason prior to 2006; Colletti landed Andre Ethier in exchange for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez in a deal with the A’s. The Hiroki Kuroda signing from Japan is also right up there.

The worst moves:

1/14/2006: Traded Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany to Tampa Bay for Danys Baez and Lance Carter

4/24/2006: Traded Cody Ross to Cincinnati for Ben Kozlowski

11/22/2006: Signed Juan Pierre to a five-year, $44 million contract

12/6/2006: Signed Jason Schmidt to a three-year, $47 million contract

12/6/2007: Signed Andruw Jones to a two-year, $36.2 million contract

7/26/2008: Traded Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan to Cleveland for Casey Blake

7/31/2010: Traded James McDonald and Andrew Lambo to Pittsburgh for Octavio Dotel

11/29/2010: Signed Juan Uribe to a three-year, $21 million contract

I suppose the good news there is that most of Colletti’s worst moves came early. However, it likely had something to do with the fact that Frank McCourt’s financial troubles left him with less flexibility in recent offseasons.

Ned hasn’t been all bad, but he has his old boss Brian Sabean’s fondness for veterans without Sabean’s genius in drafting pitchers (though he did get Clayton Kershaw in 2006). I think the Dodgers could do better, but now that they’ve shaped their team for years to come with the additions of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Hanley Ramirez, perhaps the GM job there isn’t attractive as it would have seemed to be a couple of months ago.

Anyway, they’ve made their choice. But after such a huge outlay to upgrade the team, the organization will expect better on-field results next year. Even with an extension, Colletti’s contract is merely a drop in the bucket, and it shouldn’t buy him that much job security.

In  the meantime, fellow NL contenders should feel a bit better about things. Colletti can and will outspend everyone else and the Dodgers seem likely to remain contenders for years, but he’s probably not the guy to assemble any sort of juggernaut or dynasty.

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.