Usually there’s only so many times during the offseason in which it’s minor league related news that dominate the headlines. There’s only two times in which it’s a scheduled event – the 40-man roster addition deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, and then a few weeks later the actual Rule 5 Draft. That deadline was on Monday and the Cincinnati Reds added six players. The organization added infielders Alex Blandino and Shed Long, along with outfielder Jose Siri. They also added three right handed pitchers in Jose Lopez and Jesus Reyes, both starters, and reliever Zack Weiss. I wrote a whole bunch of words about each of those prospects here if you are interested in reading it.
Among that group I would rank them in this order, in terms of likelihood we see them impact the Cincinnati Reds during the 2018 season: Alex Blandino, Jose Lopez, Zack Weiss, Jesus Reyes, Shed Long, and Jose Siri. All of the players except Jose Siri, spent at least a third of their season in Double-A during 2017. While I would expect Shed Long and Jose Reyes to begin their seasons in Double-A again next season, the first five players on that list are all a good half-season away from being at the doorstep of the Major Leagues, or possibly closer. For Jose Siri, it’s going to very likely be more time. He spent the entire 2017 season in Dayton and he’ll begin the 2018 season in Daytona. It would take an absolutely incredible rise for him to reach the Major Leagues in 2018 outside of a September call up.
While those players won’t be eligible for the Rule 5 draft, there are a whole lot of players across baseball that are. I don’t believe any Reds players are in grave danger of being selected this season, though if there were players with a remote chance of being taken they would include pitchers Jose Adames and Wyatt Strahan, along with position players Gavin LaValley and Nick Longhi. The organization has one roster spot open, which means they could make a selection of their own. They could use a pick to help fill out a few areas of need if the right player is there for the taking. The Rule 5 draft will take place on December 14th at 9am.
That, however, was nowhere near as important as what happened to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday afternoon and evening. If you’ve been living under a rock you may have missed it. But, here’s the short version of it: Former Braves GM John Coppolella, who was fired when Major League Baseball began their investigation into cheating, has been placed on the permanently ineligible list. Special Assistant Gordon Blakeley is facing a 1-year suspension. The Braves also saw 12 of their minor league players declared free agents, including six players that they signed for over $1M last season. They also face penalties moving forward when it comes to signing players on the international market as well as the amateur draft.
So, how did we get here? Well, basically, the Atlanta Braves, as directed by people within the front office, were paying additional money to amateur players to sign with them, but not reporting it. That led to them being eligible to sign players in the future that they otherwise would have been ineligible to sign – which is why so many players were declared free agents. They should have never been able to sign with the Braves to begin with. If you’d like more details on all of the players, more information on the things that the Atlanta organization did, or the official statement from Major League Baseball, Baseball America has a detailed explanation.
There is so much to unwrap in this entire situation. Where things get most interesting is what this means for the future in this market. First, while we’ve seen one other team punished for similar violations (the Red Sox after 2015), Major League Baseball went the full on nuclear route in terms of punishment this time around. Teams that were doing this, and it’s a dirty secret that isn’t quite so secret that some aspects of this wasn’t entirely uncommon, are going to really think twice about doing so now if there is a potential to face a lifetime ban from the game.
More than a few people have speculated that this is going to lead to an international draft taking over after the current collective bargaining agreement is up in 2021. That can be both good and bad. For a team like the Cincinnati Reds, that could be good in that it could help them remain more competitive. For the game of baseball, though, it may be very bad. It would limit the amount of money, even more than there is limitations now, going to amateur players. When that happens you tend to see lesser players in the long run. When Puerto Rico was added to the amateur draft the amount of players coming from that country disappeared compared to when they were open to sign with any team for whatever a team was willing to pay. There’s a real concern we will see that happen around the world.