Welcome finally to the international free agency period which, for the first time in a while, is going to have some relevance to Atlanta Braves fans. No, this isn’t an Orioles-type situation where the organization hasn’t wanted to dipped their toes into the IFA pool of players for reasons unknown...the Braves have actually haven’t been able to. Below, you will find a quick primer on some basic information on the international free agency period, which begins Friday, January 15, and what you need to know about the Braves during this time.
Former general manager John Coppolella played it fast and loose with the international free agent market and it cost the Braves in a BIG way over the last few years. In November of 2017, it was announced the Braves were to lose 13 international signees including Kevin Maitan, Yunior Severino, and Yefri del Rosario, prohibited from signing another (Robert Puason, who is now a stud prospect), and had severe spending limits imposed upon them for four international signing periods. Last signing period, they were prohibited from signing any player for more than $10,000 on any given player. They also lost a third pick in the 2018 Draft and Coppy was banned from baseball for life....oof. Special assistant Gordon Blakeley got a one year ban as well...and he is back to working on international scouting showcases with New Balance fwiw.
The 2020ish period
This international free agent period is the last year that the Braves’ international penalties are in effect. Their bonus pool was cut in half and that combined with the loss of international money that came when the Braves signed Marcell Ozuna, they by FAR have the lowest international bonus pool in the league this year coming in at $1,572,000. Also, unlike in previous years, teams could not trade for international slot money so even if the Braves wanted to go and get some more international money, they could not.
Normally, this signing period would have started on July 2nd of 2020 which is why you will often see this period of time referred to as J2 signing periods, but the ongoing pandemic necessitated some changes and the period was pushed back which was extra painful for a Braves team that just wants to start signing international guys of note again. Its weird that the 2020/2021 signing period doesn’t start until 2021, but these are strange times. This signing period will run through December 15, 2021.
The Braves are pretty limited in what they can and can’t do this signing period with so little money to spend. The big name to keep an eye on is infielder Ambioris Tavarez who is going to be the guy that is getting the VAST majority of the Braves’ bonus pool this IFA period. He has real raw power and a strong arm, but may not stick at shortstop and could end up as third baseman or outfielder down the road. Our own Matt Powers has put together a class preview with a better rundown on Tavarez and we will have more in-depth info as time goes on.