Yesterday afternoon news broke that Atlanta Brave General Manager John Coppolella had resigned. Special Assistant to the General Manager Gordon Blakeley also resigned. Why did they resign? Major League Baseball began looking into more than a few accusations of rules tampering. Coppolella allegedly is being investigated for skirting international signing rules, domestic amateur signing rules, player tampering and more.

When the news first broke it was simply stated that Major League Baseball was investigating John Coppolella, but nothing beyond that had come out. Within a few hours all kinds of details began to emerge. And it got wild, quickly. The biggest international free agent in 2016, Kevin Maitan, may have been signed by working around the rules? He was living in the United States with another player the team would sign months before either would sign? Offering a player a car on top of his signing bonus to make up the money he wanted to sign but that would have put the organization over their allowed spending pool? Calling a potential free agent’s representation during the regular season to talk about things?

The international free agent market has always been a bit of a wild west situation where there are rules, but generally speaking, everyone is breaking them a little bit. Teams aren’t supposed to have agreed to deals with players before they are actually eligible to sign, but every team does. Before teams were limited on how much they could spend, teams would sign players from the same buscon just as a way to maintain a good working relationship with him and keep access to the higher end players that he would eventually have in the future. They may not have necessarily overpaid for them, though that did happen at times. Major League Baseball has tried cracking down on that, especially since those signing bonuses could be funneled to one player to work around bonus limitations. This is what the Boston Red Sox were busted for last year which led to them facing harsh penalties – including all of the signed players involved being declared free agents.

Major League Baseball is still investigating, but it appears that there is a chance that it could mean that Kevin Maitan could become a free agent. That would get rather interesting. Just guessing here, but I’d guess that he would still be subject to the signing rules and bonus limitations. The bigger question could be whether the teams eligible to sign him in 2016 would be eligible still, or if a team like the Reds who could have signed him in 2017 but is now facing the penalty phase for their spending, would be ineligible to offer him more than $300,000.

While there may have been some General Managers in the past who were a little bit different, in the last two years we have seen multiple punished and several other front office members face penalties or worse. The St. Louis Cardinals hacked the Houston Astros. The Boston Red Sox working around signing limitations. The San Diego Padres AJ Preller was suspended for 30 days for failing to disclose medical information during a trade.

The old saying is “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin'”, and it seems that maybe a few General Managers around baseball have taken that to heart. Two months ago the New York Yankees were apparently using the Yes Network television cameras to steal the Boston Red Sox signs. Some teams are going above-and-beyond the rules to try and gain a competitive advantage right now. While there seems to be cheating in other sports, it seems to show up in baseball more.  Perhaps because it’s the only league where there isn’t a salary cap and allows for vast discrepancies in spending, making it more difficult for teams to truly compete on the same level as some others.

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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