2008 Year In Review: The International Market

Before November 2007, the Oakland A's hadn't spent more than $40,000 to sign any prospect out of Latin America. Since that time, the A's have inked a number of players to significant signing bonuses, including Michael Inoa, who received a record-breaking amount. We review the A's significant international signings since November 2007 inside…

At the conclusion of the 2007 season, the Oakland A's front office personnel got together for organizational meetings and determined that they needed to invest significant resources into bringing international talent into the organization. Although the A's were one of the first teams to have a significant presence on the island of the Dominican Republic, Oakland had taken a back-seat to big market teams over the past few years and hadn't been a factor in the increasingly expensive and competitive international free agent market.

Since those post-2007 meetings, the A's have invested more than $5 million on international free agents, including a record-breaking $4.25 million on the top international free agent in this year's market, Michael Inoa. Below is a review of the significant A's international free agent signings since November 2007 and what they did in 2008.

Arnold Leon: Leon was the A's first international free agent signing to receive a bonus of six-figures. The right-handed pitcher was signed in November 2007 out of the Mexican League. Leon was 19 at the time, but he had competed both in the Mexican Summer and Winter Leagues, which are often compared to Triple-A level in terms of the competition. As part of the A's deal with Leon's Mexican League team, Leon was a non-roster invitee to major league spring training and he was lent back to his Mexican League team midway through the regular season. Leon had a strong spring and then was assigned to High-A Stockton, where he was one of the youngest players on the Ports' championship squad. In 20 relief appearances, Leon posted a 2.86 ERA and struck-out 28 in 28 innings. He then made 13 appearances in the Mexican Summer League for Saltillo, posting a 4.30 ERA with a 21:2 K:BB ratio in 14.2 innings. He has been pitching for Culiacan this winter and currently has a 4.66 ERA in 19.1 innings. Leon will be a non-roster invitee to major league spring training in 2009.

Franklin Contreras: Contreras, a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic, was signed around the same time that the A's inked Leon. The 6'2'' right-hander appeared in 50 games for the A's Dominican Summer League team 1 and, after a quick start (808 OPS in the month of June), he struggled with the bat. In 145 at-bats, he hit only .172 with eight extra-base hits. Contreras turned 18 in June and is likely to spend next season in the DSL once again.

Omar Duran: Duran signed at around the same time as Contreras. Duran is a left-handed pitcher and a native of the Dominican Republic. He was a member of the A's DSL team 2 in 2008. The 6'3'' southpaw struck-out 37 in 34.2 innings, but he walked 34 and posted a 5.71 ERA. He will turn 19 in late February.

Robin Rosario: Rosario was one of five international signings that the A's announced in February 2008. An outfielder, Rosario was signed to what was then the largest signing bonus ever given out by the A's for an international free agent ($350,000). Rosario appeared in 42 games for the A's DSL team 2 and the native of the Dominican Republic hit .281 with a 762 OPS. He didn't turn 18 until late November. Rosario, who has good speed and a cannon throwing arm, could make his US debut with the A's Rookie League squad in 2009.

Jensi Peralta: Peralta's signing was also announced by Oakland in February 2008. The Venezuelan native appeared in 32 games for the A's DSL team 2 and hit .156 with three extra-base hits in 90 at-bats. He did walk 14 times and posted an OBP of more than 100 points better than his average. Peralta won't turn 18 until July and is likely to get at least one more year in the DSL.

Anderson Fortuna: The 6'4'' right-hander was one of the A's February 2008 signings. The native of the Dominican Republic worked as a reliever for the A's DSL team 2 in 2008, posting a 3.24 ERA in 25 innings. He struck-out 20 and walked 18, but didn't allow a homerun. Fortuna turned 19 in late October.

Wilkin Brand: Brand, a 16-year-old switch-hitting middle infielder, was another February 2008 signing. He didn't appear in any games for A's farm affiliates in 2008.

Wander Rodriguez: Rodriguez, like Brand, was a February 2008 signing who didn't appear in any games for A's affiliates in 2008. He is a 17-year-old pitcher.

Michael Inoa: Inoa was the prize of the A's 2008 international signing class and widely considered the top Latin American prospect signed in 2008 in all of baseball. The 6'7'' right-hander was signed for $4.25 million on July 2, 2008. Inoa, who turned 16 in late September, did not appear in an official game for an A's affiliate in 2008, but he competed for the A's in the Dominican Instructional League and could come to the US for spring training this March.

Jose Sayegh: Outside of Inoa, Sayegh was the highest-profile A's international signing in July 2008. The Venezuelan outfielder reportedly signed for $130,000. He will likely make his DSL debut next season.

Diego Ledezma: Ledezma, a catcher from Venezuela, was the only A's July 2008 signing to debut in the DSL this past season. The big-bodied backstop (6'5'') appeared in seven games for the A's DSL team 1. He collected four hits (including one double) in 19 at-bats. He turned 18 in August.

Elihoref Suniaga: The 16-year-old Suniaga also signed out of Venezuela in July 2008. He has yet to make his affiliated baseball debut.

Junior Gonzalez: Gonzalez, a Venezuelan left-hander, signed in July 2008. He has yet to make his affiliated baseball debut.

Christian Perez: Perez, a Venezuelan right-hander, signed in July 2008. He has yet to make his affiliated baseball debut.

Joel Galarraga: Galarraga represents the A's second foray into the Mexican League talent market. The native of Cuba has spent the past two-plus years playing in the Mexican Summer League. The catcher hit .318 with a .416 OBP in 2008 and hit .356 in 2007. Galarraga has been invited to major league spring training and if the A's like what they see from him, Oakland can pay a fee to Galarraga's Mexican League team to buy his contract outright. He will be 27 in March.

Jose Enriquez Castillo: Castillo is the A's latest international signing. The Dominican pitcher is 17 and can reportedly reach 93 MPH with his fastball already.

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