The Angels have agreed to terms with 17-year-old shortstop Kevin Maitan, the former Atlanta Braves’ top prospect who was declared a free agent because of the team’s violations of international signing restrictions, according to a source.
The Angels will pay Maitan a $2.2 million bonus, which they can take out of next year’s international pool as part of a special exemption crafted in the wake of the Braves’ penalties.
The Angels still have $1.315 million left in this year’s pool, which general manager Billy Eppler said is earmarked to try to sign Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani. The Angels are one of seven finalists for Ohtani, who must make his decision by Dec. 22.
Getting Maitan is a coup for the Angels. He is currently listed 38th in baseball by MLB.com and 71st by Baseball America, although both those rankings came out in July. He would likely be ranked lower now, after a somewhat disappointing first season in the minors. Still, in the Angels system, he likely rates in the top three or four.
Maitan was considered the top international prospect in 2016. The Braves signed him for $4.25 million.
However, the Braves were later found to have circumvented baseball’s international signing rules. John Coppolella, the Braves general manager at the time, last month was banned for life because of the infractions. The 12 Braves prospects who were the products of their infractions were allowed to become free agents.
Major league baseball allowed each team an extra $200,000 of pool space to sign any of the newly available players, as well as allowing them to use either their pool money from the 2017-18 period or the 2018-19 period.
The Angels had used almost all of their pool money from 2017-18, which is why they made last week’s trade with the Braves to get $1.21 million worth of space. That money is still available for Ohtani, though.
Maitan, a Venezuelan compared to Miguel Cabrera, has seen his stock dip somewhat in the year he’s been in professional baseball. A switch-hitter, he played at two levels of Rookie ball in 2017, hitting .241 with a .290 on-base percentage and two homers in 176 plate appearances.
Although projected as a shortstop, Maitan now seems to be headed elsewhere on the diamond. Listed at 6-foot-2, Maitan reportedly weighed 185 pounds when he signed, but was up to 210 pounds in 2017. Some scouts suspect he may end up at third base, or even first base.