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Oakland A's sign five more MiLB free agents

UPDATED: The Oakland A's have re-signed three of their own free agents to minor league deals and have added two other free agents from outside of the organization.

Aaron KurczMatt McBride and Felix Doubront will be returning to the Oakland A's organization for the 2017 season. The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported on Tuesday night that all three free agents have re-signed with Oakland to minor league deals. MiLB Roster Tracker (@MiLB_Track on Twitter) also reported on Tuesday night that the A's had signed Tyler Sturdevant, a right-handed pitcher who was part of the Tampa Bay Rays' organization in 2016. UPDATE: After this story was published, the A's announced that OF Kenny Wilson had also been signed to a minor league free agent deal. Wilson spent the past two seasons in the Miami Marlins organization after spending the second-half of the 2014 season in the A's chain. Kurcz was one of the A's top minor league free agents. The right-hander just turned 26 in August and owns a career K/9 of 10.6 and a career H/9 of 7.3. A 2010 10th-round pick of the Chicago Cubs out of Southern Nevada, Kurcz has the unusual distinction of having been traded twice for non-players. In 2012, he was the PTBNL in the deal that sent GM Theo Epstein from the Boston Red Sox to the Cubs. Kurcz was then traded in a more conventional deal before the 2015 season, going from Boston to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Anthony Varvaro. Then in July 2015, the A's acquired Kurcz from the Braves in exchange for one of their international bonus slots.

Since coming to Oakland, Kurcz has spent most of his time with Triple-A Nashville. In 2015, he made 18 appearances out of the bullpen for the Sounds, posting a 4.15 ERA and a 31:15 K:BB. He then participated in the Arizona Fall League. At the start of 2016, Kurcz was forced to go back to Double-A thanks to a roster crunch in Nashville. He pitched his way back up to Triple-A, posting a 1.26 ERA and a 12:0 K:BB in 14.1 innings. He re-joined the Sounds on May 10 and spent the rest of the season in their bullpen. Kurcz posted a 3.50 ERA in 54 innings, striking out 43 and walking 17. 

Kurcz's strike-outs were down in 2016, but that was by design, as he was focused on throwing more strikes. His cut his walk rate significantly, from more than 5 per nine innings in 2015 to a little more than 2 per nine innings. 

Oakland A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman had this to say about Kurcz's progress midway through the 2016 season:

"He is commanding his fastball. He was sort of side-to-side with his delivery. Now he is better able to use his mechanics. He is 94-95 and he has a sinking fastball. His slider was a little big and slurvy. Now it is a lot tighter. He’s really been excellent in the role that he has played there. I’m very impressed with how he handled going down to Double-A to start the year. He made several adjustments there and once he got it, we moved him back up and he has taken it and has run with it."

Kurcz is currently pitching in the Mexican Winter League. He leads the Charros de Jalisco with seven saves. His ERA is 5.14, but most of that comes from a bad first outing, during which he allowed four runs in a third of an inning. He has struck-out 10 and walked five.

McBride returns to the A's for a second season after joining the organization as a minor league free agent before the 2016 season. The versatile McBride can play all over the field, but he figures to see a significant amount of time at catcher, at least at the start of the season. The A's will be without Beau Taylor for the first 50 games of the 2017 season thanks to a suspension. Taylor was the most experienced non-roster catcher in the A's system and figures to be in Triple-A once his suspension is completed.

McBride split his 2016 season between Triple-A Nashville and Oakland. In 70 games with the Sounds, McBride hit .267/.339/.441 with seven homers. He spent a good chunk of the year on the A's roster and appeared in 20 games for Oakland. He hit .209/.227/.279 in 43 at-bats. McBride will turn 32 in early May. He was originally a compensation round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2006.

Doubront re-joins the A's on a minor league deal after spending the last one-and-a-half seasons on the A's major league roster. The left-hander was poised to start the 2016 season in the A's rotation when he injured his elbow during the final start of spring training. He needed Tommy John surgery and missed the entire year. Doubront will be roughly 12 months out from his surgery at the start of the season, so it is conceivable that he could begin the year on an active roster.

When healthy, Doubront gives the A's a power left-handed arm with big league experience, something the A's have very little of in their system. He has experience as both a starter and a reliever and, if healthy, will give the A's some flexibility as they try to piece together their big league staff throughout the 2017 season.

Sturdevant is a 30-year-old veteran right-hander with eight years of experience in professional baseball. The 2009 27th-round pick of the Indians made his major-league debut with the Tampa Bay Rays last season. He appeared in 16 games for Tampa, posting a 3.93 ERA and a 14:6 K:BB in 18.1 innings. He has been a reliever for most of his career and has a minor league career ERA of 2.91 in 340.1 innings. Sturdevant missed the entire 2013 season with injury and had to redshirt a season in college thanks to arm troubles. He spent his entire career in the Indians' organization until becoming a free agent before the 2016 season and signing with Tampa.

Sturdevant has a deep repertoire of pitches for a reliever, throwing a fastball that sits in the low-90s, a cutter, a curveball, a slider and a change-up. He relies primarily on his fastball and cutter, however.

Wilson is a familiar name to A's fans, as he spent half of the 2014 season in the organization. Claimed off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays in July that year, Wilson appeared in 14 games for Sacramento and 27 games for Midland. He was designated for assignment during the season and left the A's after that season as a minor league free agent. He signed with Miami and spent the past two years in the Marlins' chain. In 2016, he began the year with Triple-A New Orleans and hit .219 with 26 stolen bases in 93 games before being sent back to Double-A Jacksonville. In 32 games with the Suns, Wilson hit .347 with a .421 OBP. 

The Tampa native was a second round pick of the Blue Jays in 2008. He has plus speed and has stolen at least 25 bases in a season in each year of his career except two -- an injury-plagued 2013 campaign during which he stole 17 bases in 60 games and a 2011 season during which he stole 17 bases in 48 games in a season that also ended early due to injury. He is a true centerfielder with above-average range. 

Sturdevant and Wilson are the first minor league free agents the A's have brought in from outside of the organization so far this off-season. The A's have now re-signed the following free agents for 2017: Kurcz, McBride, Doubront, Andrew LamboViosergy RosaBrandon MannCarlos NavasRyan BrasierJosh Rodriguez and Chris Smith.

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