Braves suspected Marlins were stealing signs during three-game sweep in Miami

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Miami just swept a three-game home series against Atlanta and afterward several Braves players and manager Fredi Gonzalez all but accused the Marlins of stealing signs.

Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Gonzalez changed the team’s signs five times during Wednesday’s game alone and “the Braves went so far as to look at the sculpture in left center field, wondering if there was somebody hiding in there with a camera.”

Someone hiding in the Home Run Sculpture and relaying opposing team’s signs to the Marlins would be a spectacular story, but ultimately the Braves found nothing out of the ordinary in any of their searches. They did, however, continue to cite the Marlins’ extreme home/road splits when discussing the issue with the media.

One of the biggest supposed red flags from the Braves’ point of view is that the Marlins knocked around Aaron Harang after being shut down by him in a start last week, but realistically it’s the being shut down by Aaron Harang part that should raise more eyebrows. He’s a 36-year-old with a 4.91 ERA in 32 starts since the beginning of last season.

When asked about the sign-stealing accusations, Marlins manager Mike Redmond told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:

Just give us a little credit. I mean, we’re out there playing the game the right way. Guys are battling and competing. That’s how we’re winning ballgames. Actually, I don’t even think much about it because my focus is on our guys and my team and what we’re doing. We just played a great three-game series and I’m not going to let anything diminish that.

And here’s what Marlins infielder Casey McGehee said:

I’m not going to say it’s never happened in the history of the game before, but we’re not splitting any atoms, let’s put it that way.

Harang, of course, had a different take:

It was baffling, like, where were these guys last week? They were way too comfortable. It seemed like they were all hitting like Ted Williams.

Or, it was like they were all facing Aaron Harang.

Whatever the case, it should be fun when the Marlins and Braves next play beginning May 30 … in Miami.

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.