John Axford another buy-low bullpen option for Blue Jays


With the Free Agent relief market growing thinner by the day, the Toronto Blue Jays could be putting themselves into a state of disadvantage with the retooling of their bullpen.  If the trade route, which Alex Anthopoulos seems to prefer, does not yield the value that the Blue Jays are seeking, Toronto may be left to pick at the scraps of Free Agency early in the new year.  John Axford represents a buy-low option that could be left sitting on that pile.

A Simcoe, Ontario native, Axford and his famous moustaches have fallen on hard times since his elite 2011 season in which he recorded 46 saves and a 1.95 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Axford remained with the Brewers until late 2013, when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later.

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Prior to last season, the Canadian signed a 1-year, $4.5M contract with the Cleveland Indians where he was named the Opening Day Closer.  Axford would lose the job in May and be waived in August, only to be picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Designated for Assignment in October.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Anthopoulos has said that the Blue Jays would be open to a former Closer coming off a down season.  Axford may fit that bill a little too much, but if he were able to improve his BB/9 and control with the help of Russell Martin, his arm talents could make him a name to consider on a very conservative contract offer.

Axford traditionally throws his fastball 70% of the time, and it’s a big one, usually sitting 94-96 MPH.  He also throws a curveball and slider, the latter of which was lethal during his stronger seasons.

Looking to Axford as the answer at Closer would be completely irrational, but if Axford is willing to sign a low-end contract to re-establish his value in an effort to hit it bigger in 2015, this could be a power-arm option towards the back of the bullpen.  Axford brings with him unique splits as well, with opposing LHB hitting .219 / .322 / .327 and RHB hitting .239 / .316 / .370.

Putting too much faith in the trade market could be unwise for the Toronto Blue Jays.  They may be able to make a move for one arm, but Alex Anthopoulos could hesitate to cough up the net price for repairing this bullpen through trades alone.  With Jason Grilli coming off the market yesterday, quality options are growing thinner.  “Hope” signings are no way to build a great team, but a rebound-candidate like John Axford may be all that remains if the Blue Jays do not act soon.