Padres six-year minor league free agents

The San Diego Padres entered the off-season with 17 minor league free agents seeing their contracts expired with the club on October 15. Two have already been retained.

Jack Cust was originally slated to be eligible for six-year free agency but is on the Padres 40-man roster right now and his rights remain with San Diego unless he is waived. The early indications are the club would like to retain his rights and may keep him on the 40-man.

Erick Burke saw action in 49 games for the Portland Beavers, going 3-3. A left-hander, Burke has had a history of struggling with southpaw batters but improved this year.

The Padres re-signed Burke and are eager to see him return to Portland to shore up the bullpen.

Jack Cassel was released before the start of the season and brought back days later and assigned to Portland. He struggled there but was awesome during his time with Mobile after being demoted.

Cassel's late season success led to an obvious re-sign by the Padres. He is expected to compete in Portland to start 2007.

Beyond Burke and Cassel, the Padres plan on waiting for the six-year free agent market to bear itself out. They are compiling scouting reports of other players on the market and will also look back at their own players who became eligible.

Here is a look at the 15 other players who were eligible for six-year free agency:

Luke Allen hit .305 for the Portland Beavers, splitting time between right field and first base. He could be a solid presence for the Triple-A squad but likely won't return.

Steve Andrade was originally taken in the Rule V draft and reacquired off waivers later in the year after he did not make the big league club out of spring training. Andrade went 3-0 with a 2.44 ERA in 26 appearances and the righty remains a player the Padres have interest in but to what extent will depend on who else is on the market.

Matt Blank went 1-1 with a 7.06 ERA in seven games for Portland. The left-hander will likely not be asked to return.

Dewon Brazelton, acquired for Sean Burroughs, has an up and down season with the Portland Beavers, going 5-7 with a 4.53 ERA. He isn't likely to be retained.

James Bullard ended the year with Mobile, posting a 2.63 ERA in ten appearances. A left-handed pitcher, he could be a player they look at to return for bullpen duty.

Bobby Hill hit .282 with Triple-A Portland in 96 games and played solid defense but the depth at second base below him will likely have him looking elsewhere.

Chris Jaile has been pitching for just two seasons and posted a 6-6 record with a 5.41 ERA for Lake Elsinore. Given his age, experience and progress he will likely not be looked at in free agency.

Geoffrey Jones went 1-1 with one save and a 4.26 ERA for the Mobile BayBears and sees himself as a lefty specialist, holding them to a .214 average. He could return in a similar capacity.

Julius Matos was a stabilizer on the Mobile BayBears and Portland Beavers on the infield and has good leadership skills but will likely not be retained.

Dave Matranga hit .219 over 92 games for the Portland Beavers playing all over the infield. His versatility is good but will likely not be looked at in free agency.

Ryan Meaux was pummeled early on in Portland but settled down over the last few months of the season. He could be used in the pen – lefties are always welcome.

Bubba Nelson went 5-7 with two saves and a 3.80 ERA for the Mobile BayBears. His performance warrants another look this off-season.

Chris O'Riordan struggled in both Lake Elsinore and Mobile and will have to look for work elsewhere.

Mario Ramos struggled in Portland with a 0-3 record and a 7.92 ERA and will likely not return.

Stephen Smitherman struggled early on before providing some meat in the middle of the order in July and August for Mobile. He will likely be pushed out of a job with the Padres depth at first base and the outfield at the higher levels.

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