A's Add Five To Roster; Sign Three MiLB FAs

With the deadline for setting their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft looming, the Oakland A's added five players to the roster. The team has also signed three minor league free agents. We have the details inside…

Jared Burton had a strong season with Cincinnati after the A's lost him in last year's Rule 5 draft.
November 20th was the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 draft, which will take place during baseball's winter meetings that run from December 3rd through the 5th. If a player is selected in the Rule 5 draft, he must remain on his new team's major league roster for the entire season or be offered back to his old organization. Last season, the A's selected two players in the Rule 5 draft, Jay Marshall and Ryan Goleski. Goleski was offered back to the Cleveland Indians organization after a disappointing spring. Marshall remained with the A's for the entire season, but was lost on waivers in October to the Boston Red Sox. Oakland lost reliever Jared Burton to the Cincinnati Reds organization during last year's Rule 5 draft.

The A's began the day with 33 spots filled on their 40-man roster. Oakland brought that total up to 38 by adding five players: pitchers Jeff Gray and Henry Rodriguez, shortstop Gregorio Petit, catcher Landon Powell and outfielder Richie Robnett.

Henry Rodriguez is one of the A's top prospects.
For this year's Rule 5 draft, any player not on the 40-man roster who was drafted in 2004 or earlier who was at least 19 years old at the time he was selected and any player drafted in 2003 or earlier who was at least 18 years or younger at the time he was selected is eligible. Gray, Powell and Robnett were all drafted in 2004, while Petit and Rodriguez were international free agent signings in 2001 and 2003, respectively.

Gray is coming off of a season during which he saved an A's minor league system-high 15 games for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. The Southwest Missouri State alum had a 3.34 ERA in 67.1 innings during the 2007 regular season. He struck out 57 and walked 24 and allowed only two homers. Gray recently completed his Arizona Fall League season, where he had a 5.68 ERA in 12.2 innings for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Gray features a mid-90s fastball that could have made him an attractive Rule 5 candidate for many teams looking for hard-throwing relievers.

Rodriguez is one of the best young arms in the A's system. The right-hander has never pitched above the A-ball level, but his combination of a high-90s fastball and a good change-up could have made him attractive to other teams in the Rule 5 draft despite his inexperience. The 20-year-old Venezuelan native went 6-8 with a 3.07 ERA as a starter for Kane County in 2007. He struck out 106 in only 99.2 innings for the Cougars. Rodriguez is currently pitching for Zulia of the Venezuelan Winter League, and he has a 1.62 ERA and 16 strike outs in 16.2 innings thus far.

Petit, who also hails from Venezuela, has been eligible for the Rule 5 draft each of the past two seasons. In the past, Petit was considered too raw to be kept on a major league roster for an entire season. However, he became a much more viable candidate for the Rule 5 draft in 2007 when he reached both the Double-A and Triple-A levels for the first time. Petit hit .292 with a 728 OPS and 59 RBI in 133 games split between Midland and Sacramento. He was named to the Texas League All-Star game while with Midland and helped the River Cats win the PCL and Triple-A titles. Petit is an outstanding defensive shortstop and second baseman. He is currently playing in the VWL for Caracas and is batting .229 in 48 at-bats for the Leones.

Richie Robnett has big-time homerun power.
Powell, who was a first round pick of the A's in 2004, will be missing part of next season as he rehabs from a torn ACL he suffered in July. The switch-hitting catcher was in the middle of an outstanding season when he went down with the injury. He began the year with Double-A Midland, where he hit .292 with 11 homers and an 893 OPS. He was named to the Texas League All-Star game and was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento shortly thereafter. Powell appeared in only four games with the River Cats before getting hurt, but he had a big impact, homering three times in only 17 at-bats. Powell is a premier defensive catcher and likely would have been competing with Kurt Suzuki for playing time in Oakland this past September had he not gotten injured. The ACL tear is his second to that same knee, so there is some concern that knee might cause Powell to move away from the catcher's position. He is expected to miss at least the first month of next season.

Robnett was also a first round pick of the A's in 2004. The power-hitting outfielder spent most of the season with Double-A Midland, where he led the team with 18 homers and 74 RBI. He finished seventh in the Texas League in both categories despite spending the final three weeks of the season in Triple-A. Robnett was a Texas League mid-season and post-season All-Star, and he homered during the Texas League All-Star game off of Royals' top prospect Luke Hochevar. Robnett struggled at the Triple-A level, striking out 16 times in 33 at-bats. However, he finished the regular season with four hits in his final 13 at-bats (.308). Robnett has the most raw power of any player in the A's system. The 24-year-old also has a strong throwing arm and decent speed. He has seen time at all three outfield positions during his minor league career.

A's Sign Three Minor League Free Agents
The minor league free agency period is underway and the A's have inked three players thus far: Troy Cate, Todd Donovan and Todd Linden.

Todd Linden was once a top prospect for the Giants.
Cate is a left-handed pitcher who most recently was with the St. Louis Cardinals. The lefty appeared in 14 games for the Cardinals in 2007, posting a 3.38 ERA in 16 innings. He allowed 18 hits and nine walks while striking out 12 with St. Louis. Cate spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Memphis, where he went 2-5 with a 6.81 ERA in 71.1 innings. He struck out 60 and walked 30 during that stretch. Cate was originally selected in the 2002 draft out of Ricks Junior College by the Seattle Mariners. He spent six seasons in the Seattle chain before he was released during the 2005 season after being suspended for 15 games for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. He signed with St. Louis in 2006 and earned a spot on the Cardinals' 40-man roster with a strong season. Cate was removed from the Cardinals' 40-man roster this past September. He is currently pitching for Mazatlan of the Mexican Winter League.

Donovan, a fleet-footed outfielder, was an eighth round pick of the San Diego Padres in 1999. He played for San Diego when current A's first base coach Tye Waller was the Padres Director of Player Development. Donovan has also played for the Dodgers, Orioles, Indians and Rangers organizations. He has done a good job of getting on-base throughout his career and he has stolen 272 bases in 647 games during his career. Donovan spent last season in the Texas Rangers chain, however, a groin injury cost him much of the season. He hit .254 in 63 at-bats for Double-A Frisco. Donovan has played above the Double-A level only twice during his nine year career – in 2005, when he hit .378 in 13 games with Triple-A Las Vegas, and in 2006, when he hit .216 in 45 games with Triple-A Ottawa.

Linden is a familiar name to many Bay Area baseball fans. A top prospect in the Giants chain for many years, Linden became something of a lightening rod for many Giants fans who were frustrated with San Francisco's player development efforts. The switch-hitting outfielder was the Giants first round pick in 2001. He became a top prospect the next season when he posted a 901 OPS at the Double-A level and finished the year in Triple-A. Linden made his big league debut with the Giants in 2003, batting .211 with a homer in 18 games. He continued to receive chances at the big league level in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, but was never able to capture a full-time role. His best stint with the Giants came in 2006, when he had an 811 OPS and a .273 BA in 77 at-bats. He struggled with San Francisco in 2007, batting .182 with a 450 OPS in 55 at-bats. He was released mid-season and picked-up by the Florida Marlins, where he had more success. He hit .375 in a 14-game stint with Triple-A Albuquerque and batted .271 with a 711 OPS in 129 at-bats for the Marlins.

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