Oakland A's 2009 Minor League Free Agents

Friday marks the start of the minor league free agency period. Players who have been playing baseball professionally for six years or who were playing under one-year minor league contracts are eligible to file for free agency. We have the official list of the Oakland A's minor league free agents inside…

The major league baseball free agency period doesn't begin until after the World Series, but, for minor leaguers, Friday, October 16, is the day that those eligible can file for free agency. Minor leaguers who are not on a team's 40-man roster are eligible for free agency if they have played professional baseball for at least six seasons or if they were playing for their current organization under a one-year contract.

For players drafted in the amateur player draft, this is the year that the 2003 draft class is eligible for free agency. The A's 2003 draft class was not a strong one. Only five of the A's picks from that season have seen any time in the major leagues, and none of those players made their major league debuts with the A's. Only Andre Ethier, the A's second round pick that season, is a major league regular. Oakland currently has no players left in its system from its 2003 draft class, so none of the team's eligible minor league free agents will be players drafted by Oakland.

That isn't to say that the A's don't have any "homegrown" players eligible for free agency, however. The six-year rule applies not only to players drafted in the amateur draft, but also those signed as non-drafted free agents. Generally, these players are from outside of the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico (those countries eligible for the amateur draft). The A's have a number of familiar names from their Latin American program, as well as one player from Australia, who are eligible to file for free agency on Friday.

The last category is the one under which most of the A's minor league free agents fall, however. This category involves players who were signed to one-year minor league contracts. These players generally were signed by the A's as minor league free agents the previous off-season or were signed by Oakland out of the independent leagues during the 2009 season. These players are often signed to provide an organization depth and are usually veteran players.

Although players are eligible to file for free agency on Friday, it isn't a foregone conclusion that all of these players will sign with other teams. The A's can re-sign any of these players and, in fact, have already re-signed one of them (infielder Alexander Valdez).

Below is the official list of the A's eligible minor league free agents:

Leonardo Espinal: Espinal, a tall right-hander from the Dominican Republic, is an intriguing name on this list. Signed out of the DR in 2003, Espinal has moved slowly through the A's system despite having terrific stuff. A side-armer, Espinal was regularly clocked in the low- to mid-90s with his fastball with Stockton this season. However, his stuff hasn't always translated into success. He had a 5.34 ERA in 28.2 innings for the Ports this season. Still, Espinal is a groundball-inducing machine who can also strike-out his share of batters, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the A's try to retain the 25-year-old.

Archie Gilbert: Gilbert, a Bay Area native and Cal-State East Bay alum, was signed by the A's to minor league contracts in each of the past two off-seasons. Gilbert has performed well in his two seasons with Oakland thus far, and has been instrumental in two affiliates earning league championships, Stockton in 2008 and Midland in 2009. In 2009, Gilbert batted .283 with a .384 OBP and a team-high 29 stolen bases for the Rockhounds. He is likely to generate interest on the free agent market, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the A's try to bring Gilbert back after his two productive seasons.

Alexander Valdez (re-signed): Thus far, Valdez is the only eligible free agent to have re-signed with Oakland. The Dominican infielder has been with the organization since 2003, when he signed as a non-drafted free agent. The 25-year-old missed much of the 2008 season thanks to visa problems, and he began the 2009 season with High-A Stockton. After batting below .200 in April, he hit better than .400 in May and was promoted to Midland. With the Rockhounds, he hit .280 with a 781 OPS in 77 games. Valdez is a switch-hitter who can play second, third and some shortstop.

Scott Mitchinson: Mitchinson was acquired by Oakland before the 2008 season as part of the minor league Rule 5 draft. Since signing out of Australia in 2003 with the Philadelphia Phillies organization, Mitchinson has been effective when he has been healthy. In 389.2 career minor league innings, he has a 3.42 ERA and a better than 3:1 K:BB ratio. He has also allowed only 19 homeruns. Unfortunately, Mitchinson has struggled to stay healthy, dealing with elbow and shoulder problems throughout his career. Things were much the same for Mitchinson in 2009, who made only nine appearances with the Stockton Ports thanks to a sore elbow. If he is healthy, however, the soon-to-be 25 year-old is bound to generate interest on the open market.

Shawn Chacon: Chacon signed with the A's during the 2009 season and made 14 appearances for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, going 8-6 with a 6.29 ERA. The major league veteran is currently facing legal troubles in Nevada over allegedly unpaid gambling debts and isn't likely to return to Oakland.

Chris Gissell: Gissell signed a minor league contract with the A's for the 2008 season and after a successful campaign with the Sacramento River Cats, he signed with a professional team in Taiwan for the 2009 campaign. After spending most of the year in Taiwan, Gissell re-signed with Oakland late in the season to bolster the team's depleted Triple-A pitching staff. He made two regular season appearances with Sacramento and then pitched for the River Cats in the playoffs. Gissell will turn 32 in January and is a 13-year veteran.

Scott Patterson: Patterson was acquired by Oakland from the San Diego Padres organization for cash in August. The 6'7'' right-handed reliever had a 3.96 ERA in 63.2 innings for Triple-A Sacramento and Portland and was a Pacific Coast League mid-season All-Star. The veteran is currently pitching for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Chris Schroder: Schroder was a minor league free agent last off-season, but he actually signed a one-year major league deal with the A's that put him on the team's 40-man roster to start the season. He was eventually removed from the A's 40-man roster and spent the year as a non-roster player with Triple-A Sacramento. He had a good season, posting a 2.22 ERA in 56.2 innings.

Raul Padron: Padron has been with the A's since 2003, when he signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela. The backstop has put together a solid minor league career with the A's, appearing for all four of the team's full-season minor league affiliates. He also represented the A's in the Arizona Fall League in 2007, but he missed much of the first half of the 2008 season when he was suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. In 2009, he split his season between Stockton, Midland and Sacramento, batting .266 with seven homers and 45 RBIs. He is currently playing for Caracas in the Venezuela Winter League. If Padron's tenure has come to an end with the A's, it will have been completed on a positive note. He hit the game-winning homerun in extra-innings in the Texas League championship clincher for Midland this September.

Frank Martinez: Since 2007, Martinez has been a regular fixture in the Stockton Ports' starting line-up. The 24-year-old infielder has been a solid contributor for the Ports over the past three seasons, but he hasn't been given much of an opportunity to move past Stockton in the A's system. The switch-hitter had his worst season for the Ports in 2009, batting only .260 with a 698 OPS after hitting .279 with a 732 OPS for Stockton in 2008 and .267 with a 739 OPS for the Ports in 2007. Martinez signed with the A's as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2003. He has decent power from both sides of the plate and can play multiple infield positions, so he should generate some interest on the open market.

Kevin Cameron: Cameron signed a minor league free agent deal with the A's last off-season, but he was added to the A's 40-man roster during the season and pitched in 11 games for the A's, posting a 3.44 ERA in 18.1 major league innings. Cameron missed a third of the season with a neck problem and appeared in only 10 games for the River Cats, allowing four runs in 13 innings. He was removed from the A's 40-man roster and is now a free agent.

Kyle Middleton: Middleton signed with the A's out of the independent leagues in late July and was very impressive during his stint with Midland to close out the season. In nine starts, he went 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 60 innings. He also pitched well in the post-season for the Rockhounds. Middleton is currently pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League and could be a candidate to be re-signed by Oakland for 2010.

Andrew Brown: Brown was a mainstay in the A's bullpen during the 2008 and 2007 seasons, but he suffered a shoulder injury late in the 2008 season that lingered into 2009. When it was clear that the injury was going to prevent him from pitching in 2009, he was removed from the A's 40-man roster and signed to a minor league deal. He didn't pitch in 2009, having had surgery in February. The A's might be interested in bringing Brown back on a minor league deal in 2010.

Justin Hampson: Hampson was signed by the A's as a minor league free agent in May and assigned to Sacramento. He appeared in only four games before landing on the disabled list and missing the rest of the season. Hampson was previously with the San Diego Padres organization.

Jerome Williams: Williams was signed to a minor league free agent contract by Oakland last off-season and was invited to big league camp to compete for one of the A's starting rotation spots. He was out-pitched by Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill in camp, however, and was sent to Sacramento, where he spent the entire season in the River Cats' rotation. In 101.2 innings, the veteran Williams had a 5.58 ERA and he won five games. He also was part of the River Cats' post-season rotation.

Curtis Thigpen: Thigpen, a veteran backstop, was picked up by the A's from Toronto just before the start of the season when Oakland was looking for insurance behind the plate thanks to an injury to Landon Powell and visa problems for Joel Galarraga. Powell wound-up being healthy, however, so Thigpen was sent to Triple-A to start the year. He never appeared in a game with Sacramento, as he suffered a back injury at the start of the season and never recovered.

Daniel Barone: Barone, a Bay Area native, was signed by the A's mid-season and assigned to Double-A Midland. He appeared in only four games before being placed on the voluntarily retired list. He can "unretire" and sign with any team this off-season if he so chooses.

Dewon Day: Day, a former White Sox prospect, began the year in the Tampa Bay chain, but was released by Tampa and was signed by the A's mid-season and assigned to Midland. He spent the remainder of the season in the Rockhounds' bullpen, posting a 9.15 ERA in 20.2 innings.

Angel Garcia: Garcia was actually signed by the A's to a minor league deal before the 2008 season, but he decided not to play that season. He returned to Oakland for the 2009 season and spent the year with Midland, where he had a 3.99 ERA in 38.1 innings before spending the final month of the season as part of the Puerto Rican national team that participated in baseball's World Cup. Garcia was a fourth round pick of the Twins in 2001.

Daniel Haigwood: Haigwood, who was once traded along with Gio Gonzalez and Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome by the Chicago White Sox, was signed to a minor league deal by the A's during the season. He appeared for Stockton, Midland and Sacramento, compiling a 4.48 ERA in 72.1 innings.

Carlos Arrieche: Arrieche was signed by the A's out of Venezuela in November 2002. The infielder has moved slowly through the A's system, never appearing at a higher level than High-A. In 2009, he spent the entire season with Low-A Kane County, and he hit only .180 in 73 games for the Cougars.

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