Blue Jays should re-visit John Axford at trade deadline
The Toronto Blue Jays need pitching help, as you may have heard, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos is more likely to initially target a starter ahead of bullpen help. Rightfully so, as an improved rotation would shorten the ‘pen, allowing John Gibbons to consolidate the available work for his hottest arms.
Adding a starter will open the door to Aaron Sanchez‘s bullpen return, but I still believe that there is ample room for Anthopoulos to make a mid-range addition to the back end. Names like Aroldis Chapman or Jonathan Papelbon may become too pricey if the club hopes to first make a splash in the rotation, which brings me back (yes, again) to the Canadian fireballer John Axford.
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Axford was linked to the Blue Jays throughout the offseason before signing an incentive-heavy contract with the Colorado Rockies worth up to $2.5 million for one season. With Colorado now occupying the basement of the NL West at 39-51, Axford’s right arm is of little use to them.
Through 26.2 innings in 2015, Axford has put his career back on track. His 2.36 ERA and 1.24 WHIP are encouraging, as is his 2.91 FIP (down from a career level of 3.39). Opponents are hitting just .214 against Axford, and while his walks will always be a concern, there’s a reason we are discussing him as a discount option.
This is not the man that saved 105 ball games for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2010 to 2012, and this is not the man that has bounced from team to team since those years, struggling to recapture his form. Axford now sits somewhere in the middle, which is fine, and his resurgence in Colorado can largely be pinned to his curveball, which had been a sore spot for him in the past. His fastball is still buzzing, too, with FanGraphs listing his average velocity at 95.4 MPH.
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If, or when, the Blue Jays make a move for a starter, their remaining assets could very well leave Axford’s asking price as a more appetizing option. As a standalone trade, his addition would be a blip on the radar, but as part of a larger overhaul to the pitching staff I do believe that catching Axford at the right time in the right season could help this club lock down close games in the seventh inning an beyond.
The native of Simcoe, Ontario will be arbitration eligible after this season, and would not bring any of Toronto’s top prospects into the conversation. A B-level prospect deeper in the system or lottery ticket teenager should be plenty to bring Axford home, and while he wouldn’t be a home run addition, he could be a helpful single.
Next: Should Blue Jays explore trading Jose Bautista?