The official off-season in baseball begins right after the end of the World Series, when players eligible for free agency can declare their intention to hit the open market. While everyone knows who is eligible for major league free agency, the minor league free agent market can be a bit more murky. To make it easy for you, we have the list of current Oakland A's farmhands who will be eligible for minor league free agency this winter. Note that players with at least seven years of minor league service time are eligible to be free agents. Below are the A's minor leaguers eligible for free agency this off-season, listed in alphabetical order.
Anderson joined the A’s initially late in the season in 2014 in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. He served as depth at the catching position that September when starters Derek Norris, John Jaso and Stephen Vogt were banged up. Anderson was designated for assignment that off-season but returned to the A’s in 2015 as a minor league free agent. He would again join the A’s active roster in September and, again, was designated for assignment that off-season and then re-signed to a minor league free agent deal.
This season, Anderson remained in the minor leagues all season, splitting his time between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. Anderson appeared in just 41 games and hit only .210. With the emergence of Bruce Maxwell at the big league level, the expected return of Josh Phegley from a injury next spring and the improvement of Beau Taylor in Double-A, Anderson will likely find better opportunities for another big league shot with a different organization. The career .271 minor league hitter is still just 29 and should receive interest on the open market.
Andres Avila, RHP
Avila joined the A’s as an international signing in 2010. The then-19 year-old had been pitching in the Mexican Summer League. He split the 2010 season between the A’s farm system and the MSL, but joined the A’s full-time in 2011. Avila moved gradually through the A’s system as a starter, but his career began to take off midway through the 2013 season when he moved into the bullpen. As a reliever, Avila has found plenty of success and a few more miles per hour on his fastball. He spent the majority of the past two seasons with Double-A Midland. This season, Avila posted a 3.59 ERA with a 77:21 K:BB in 72.2 innings for the RockHounds. He made his Triple-A debut during the post-season, tossing 4.1 scoreless innings for the Sounds.
Avila’s fastball can touch 96 and he has a good slider to go along with a curveball and a change-up. He has plenty of backend of the bullpen experience from his time in the Mexican Winter League, where he has served as the closer for Los Mochis over the past few years. Last winter, he converted 23 of 24 save opportunities. Avila is 26 and should generate plenty of interest on the open market.
Ryan Brasier, RHP
The A’s signed Brasier midway through the 2015 season to a free agent minor league contract. The former Los Angeles Angels reliever had Tommy John surgery during the spring of 2014 and missed the entire season. With the A’s in 2015, Brasier completed his rehab and returned to the mound towards the end of the season, appearing in four games for the A’s AZL squad and two games for Nashville. Brasier re-signed with the A’s during the off-season and was a non-roster invitee to spring training. He spent the entire season with Nashville and was one of the Sounds’ most reliable relievers. Brasier posted a 3.56 ERA and a 70:19 K:BB in 60.2 innings.
Brasier isn’t a big guy (listed at six feet), but he can run his fastball up to 97 MPH. His slider is a solid second pitch, as well. He showed decent command for a guy just two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Brasier turned 29 in August, but he should be a marketable player given his velocity and his experience (four-plus years in Triple-A and a handful of big league appearances).
Angel Castro, RHP
Like Anderson, Castro joined the A’s in a late-season trade in 2014. Unlike Anderson, Castro didn’t join the A’s roster that season, instead finishing out the year in the Sacramento River Cats’ rotation. He re-signed with Oakland as a minor league free agent before the 2015 season and moved into the bullpen for the A’s new Triple-A affiliate in Nashville. Castro would spend most of that year with the Sounds, posting a 3.13 ERA and saving eight games for Nashville. In May, the A’s added Castro to their active roster, giving the right-hander his first major-league experience after a decade in the minor leagues. He spent most of that month with Oakland and allowed a run in four innings over five appearances. Castro re-signed with the A's as a minor league free agent once again shortly after the 2015 season ended. In 2016, Castro was a swingman for the Sounds, starting 10 games and relieving in 28. He had a 5.15 ERA in 92.2 innings.
Castro is another hard-thrower who can touch 96 with his fastball. His best secondary pitch is a curveball and he also features a change-up, slider and cut-fastball. Castro had a lot of command problems early in his career, but he has improved in that area over the past few seasons. He will turn 34 in November, but he showed he can handle multiple roles. He could be a valuable veteran presence for a team needing Triple-A depth.
Ryan Doolittle, RHP
With the exception of his older brother Sean, no player has been with the A’s organization longer than Ryan Doolittle. Drafted in the 26th round in 2008, Doolittle has re-signed with the A’s as a minor league free agent in each of the past two off-seasons. This season, Doolittle’s minor league deal included a non-roster invitation to big league spring training, the first such invitation of his career. He made four appearances in big league camp, allowing six earned runs in 3.1 innings. Doolittle was initially assigned to Double-A Midland, but he made it to Triple-A after posting a 1.04 ERA in 17.1 innings with the RockHounds. Injuries have played a big role in Doolittle’s career, and, unfortunately, the injury bug bit him again with Nashville. He was placed on the disabled list on July 28 and didn’t return to game action the rest of the season. Before he was hurt, Doolittle had a 4.05 ERA and a 19:10 K:BB in 26.2 innings.
When healthy, Doolittle has a lively repertoire of pitches that includes a fastball that can touch 96. He is a groundball pitcher who has allowed just 25 homeruns in 321.1 career minor league innings. Doolittle will turn 29 in March. His health will go a long way towards determining where he ends up next season.
Colt Hynes, LHP
The A’s acquired Hynes from the Cleveland Indians in late August in exchange for Coco Crisp. Hynes split his 2016 season between the Toronto and Cleveland organizations before joining the A’s. He even appeared in five games for the Blue Jays. Hynes made one regular season appearance for the Sounds and three during the post-season. He was a third-round pick in 2007 by the San Diego Padres. Hynes has a 3.61 ERA in 658 career minor league innings and 20 innings of big league experience.
Hynes was likely to be a pitcher the A’s considered pursuing during minor league free agency before they acquired him. By acquiring him before the end of the season, they got an extra look at him before free agency. As a lefty with a pulse and solid career numbers, he shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a spot somewhere this winter.
Wade Kirkland, UT
Kirkland is the only member of the A’s 2010 draft class still in the organization. The 11th-round pick has played a bench role the past three seasons, but he has been a valuable part of three excellent post-season teams. Kirkland won Texas League titles with Midland the past two seasons. A natural shortstop, Kirkland has played all over the field for the A’s during his minor league career. He had two unforgettable moments with the A’s: in 2014, he was the winning pitcher and hit a walk-off homerun in an extra-inning marathon with Stockton, and in 2016, he played all nine positions in the same game during the final day of the regular season.
The A’s have a crowd of middle infielders who will be competing for spots in Double-A and Triple-A next season, so it isn’t likely that Oakland brings Kirkland back next season. He will try to find an organization with a need for a good glove middle infielder who can fill a multitude of roles.
Aaron Kurcz, RHP
Kurcz has had an interesting road through the minor leagues. A teammate of Bryce Harper’s at Southern Nevada, Kurcz was originally a 10th-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2010. Before the 2012 season, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox in the deal that allowed Theo Epstein to join the Cubs’ front office. In December 2014, Kurcz was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Anthony Varvaro. Kurcz remained with Atlanta for only half a season before he was traded to the A’s for international bonus slot money.
There is a reason that Kurcz has been a target in so many deals. Although raw for much of his career, Kurcz has always had dynamic stuff. In 329.1 career minor league innings, Kurcz has 389 strike-outs. Command has been an issue for Kurcz throughout his career. In 2016, Kurcz made it a point to focus more on throwing strikes than trying to blow the ball past hitters. He began the year in Double-A and didn’t walk a batter through his first 14.1 innings, earning him a promotion to Triple-A. With the Sounds, Kurcz walked 17 in 54 innings. He gave up a little of his swing-and-miss for the better command (55 strike-outs in 67 total innings), but he was effective, posting a 3.03 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Kurcz turned 26 in August and, with his stuff, he should have plenty of offers on the open market. In a year where they had some wiggleroom with their 40-man roster, the A’s might have added Kurcz to prevent him from leaving, but the A’s are going to have a lot of players to fit into their 40-man roster this off-season (more on that in the coming days).
Brandon Mann, LHP
The A’s signed Mann to a minor league deal this off-season after he starred for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association in 2015. Mann struck-out 157 in 143.2 innings that season, setting a league record. A longtime veteran of professional baseball, Mann began his career in 2002 as a 27th-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays. He moved through several levels and even pitched overseas for a time.
Mann’s 2016 season was delayed when he was suspended for violating baseball’s banned substance policy at the start of the season. After serving his 50-game suspension, he pitched briefly for the AZL A’s and the Sounds before settling in with the RockHounds. Mann made 11 starts for Midland. He had a 4.48 ERA, but he struck-out more than a batter an inning (63 in 62.1 innings). He also allowed only a run in 12.1 innings of post-season play. Mann is 32, but he proved he has something left in the tank with the RockHounds this season.
Carlos Navas, RHP
Navas has been with the organization since he signed with the A’s out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2010. Navas spent three years in the DSL and two years in the AZL before finally receiving an opportunity outside of a complex league in 2015 with Low-A Beloit. He took full advantage of the chance, posting a 2.61 ERA in 58.2 relief innings. Navas reached High-A by the end of last season and spent most of the 2016 campaign with the Ports. Navas had his ups-and-downs with Stockton this season, but he was solid in most outings. He posted a 4.08 ERA and struck-out more than a batter an inning (67 in 53 innings). Navas spent the final 10 days of the season in Triple-A and he pitched well in six outings for the Sounds.
Navas isn’t overpowering, but he isn’t afraid to challenge hitters and he has four pitches he can throw in any count. He is one of the hardest working players in the system and lightens up any clubhouse with his positive attitude. He just turned 24 in August and should have several teams interested in how he can develop over the next few years.
Josh Rodriguez, IF
A second-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2006, Rodriguez has parlayed his versatility and good eye at the plate into minor league free agent contracts with different teams every year since 2012. Rodriguez signed with the A’s before the 2016 season and he split his season between Double-A and Triple-A. In 88 games between the two levels, Rodriguez hit .263/.381/.420. He finished particularly strong with Nashville, hitting .305 with four homers in 19 games in August.
Rodriguez has logged more than 1,100 games during his minor league career and he has appeared in only seven major league games. He turns 32 in December, but Rodriguez can still play all over the field and can get on-base. He should find a job if he wants one.
Viosergy Rosa, 1B
The A’s selected Rosa, a 29th-round pick of the Marlins in 2010, in the minor league Rule 5 draft last December. Rosa emerged as solid prospect in 2014 when he hit 15 homeruns and posted an 807 OPS between the High-A Florida State League and the Double-A Southern League. Rosa struggled in the Southern League in 2015, however, and the Marlins made him available in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
Rosa spent the entire season with Midland. He had a strong first half, hitting .281 with an 801 OPS. However, he slumped in the second half, batting only .230 with a 686 OPS. Rosa had the most memorable moment of the 2016 season when he hit a walk-off grandslam in Game Three of Texas League’s semi-final series. Rosa is only 26 and he has strong on-base skills. He should be able to find a job this off-season.
Eduard Santos, RHP
Santos became a minor league free agent last off-season for the first time after eight seasons in the Angels chain. The Dominican right-hander didn’t reach Double-A until 2015, but he dominated the Texas League, striking out 72 in 58.1 innings and posting a 2.31 ERA. The A’s gave him an invite to big league spring training and assigned him to Triple-A out of camp. Santos would remain with the Sounds all season, posting a 3.43 ERA and converting all five of his save chances. He struck-out 66 in 63 innings, although he did walk 39.
Santos can touch 97 with his fastball and his best pitch is a split-change that dives down at the plate. His command is far from perfect, but Santos has big league stuff and he will be only 27 next season. He should find a home this off-season.
Michael Soto, 1B
Soto joined the A’s as a teenager in 2009 out of the Dominican Republic. He made his US debut in 2011 and was part of the A’s 2012 Arizona Rookie League squad that reached the league championship game. After a rough 2013 season with Vermont, Soto rebounded with a strong, but injury-marred 2014 campaign with Low-A Beloit and the AZL A’s. He spent the entire 2015 season with High-A Stockton, hitting .229/.278/.355 in a career-high 114 games. Soto re-signed with the A’s last off-season, but injuries once again cut into his playing time this season. He appeared in just 40 games for Low-A Beloit, hitting .169.
Soto will turn 25 in November. He has some power, but injuries have hampered his development. He may need to go the independent league route in an effort to showcase his talents for a return to affiliated baseball.
Colin Walsh, UT
Walsh, a 13th-round pick in 2010 by the Cardinals, joined the A’s at the start of the 2014 season as a free agent after he was released by St. Louis in spring training. Walsh had a solid first season in the A’s organization, hitting .290 in 78 games at three levels. In 2015, Walsh had a breakthrough season, leading the Texas League in on-base percentage and walks. He hit .302/.447/.470 and he helped to lead the RockHounds to a Texas League title. During the off-season, he was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
Walsh made the Brewers’ Opening Day roster and remained on the team for the first two months of the season as a bench player. He didn’t play regularly, appearing in 38 games but amassing only 47 official at-bats. Walsh had only five hits, but he walked 15 times to post a .317 OBP. He was designated for assignment on May 31 and returned to the A’s organization shortly after that. Walsh would spend the rest of the season with Triple-A Nashville. He missed three weeks with an injury, but he played regularly when healthy. Walsh hit .259/.384/.388 with 41 walks in 59 games. He just turned 27 yesterday and has above-average on-base skills, can hit from both sides of the plate and can play multiple positions. Walsh should have no trouble finding a job this off-season.