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Indians, Axford reach agreement on deal

Indians, Axford reach agreement on deal
December 15, 2013
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Per ESPN's Buster Olney, the Indians have an agreement with free agent right-handed closer John Axford. The deal is pending a physical and terms of the deal are not known at this time.

Axford, 30, appeared in 75 games between the Brewers and Cardinals last season and did not record a save and compiled a 4.02 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9 and 9.0 K/9. He has closer’s experience as he has 106 in his career and had a sensational year in 2011 when he racked up a 1.95 ERA and 46 saves, but he has been very inconsistent the last two years and lost his closer’s job after many blown saves. In his five year career he has appeared in 281 games and has a 3.29 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9 and 10.8 K/9.

Axford has three-plus years of service time, so whoever signs him is getting three years of control regardless of whether he signs a one year deal. With that in mind, the assumption would be that his deal would only be for one year.

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User Comments

December 16, 2013 - 4:30 PM EST
This may be the same article that Willie put up. Like I suspected, the Cardinals straightened him out. Shame on the Brewers for not picking up on the fact that he was tipping his pitches. Looking at his three-year trajectory before the 2012 season, he was developing into one hell of a closer.

Hopefully the Tribe can benefit from the Cardinals work in fixing him.
December 16, 2013 - 10:31 AM EST
Here's a yr by yr look at Axford...

Interesting note: drop the first four games of the season and Axford's era would have been 2.92.
December 16, 2013 - 10:30 AM EST
I guess I can see the Perez/Axford comps if you look at some numbers but they aren't really the same pitcher. Axford's career K-rate is nearly 11. Perez's career K-rate is under 9. Axford can get very wild and hittable but very different type of pitcher from Perez. Much, much higher GB-rate than Perez as well.

9th inning may not be much better for those with heart issues though...
December 16, 2013 - 9:17 AM EST
Here's an article re: Axford's mechanical changes w/ the Cards...'R'┬žionType=career&statType=2&season=2013&level='ALL'

The Cards used their scouting reports when they faced him to fix him. Pretty simple he was tipping his FB, they made a minor tweak or two. The results with the Cards were telling.

As for the Cards moving on, he was a rental for them, they have plenty of Pitching depth. Per he was set to get $5.7 M in arb. I think it's noteworthy the Cards also moved David Freese and Fernando Salas in trades before both got arb raises.

St. Louis is a small mkt team that works with a fairly good size payroll bc of the fan support and product on the field. They had depth in the bullpen and needed some payroll flexibility. They made tough decisions, but look set going into 2014.
December 16, 2013 - 9:15 AM EST
Please note I say *could potentially* move him. I know the Indians aren't the only team not interested in paying relievers so much money based on saves. Just a thought.
December 16, 2013 - 9:13 AM EST
One comment for Tony as for the "control" of Axford's contract beyond this year, if he has a solid season, and say prices himself out of our comfort level, we could still potentially move him for something. Hadn't seen that mentioned yet. Worth noting IMO. Of course if he bombs, Indians bail on him.
December 16, 2013 - 9:01 AM EST
Axford had a 4.45 ERA in Milwaukee last year but after being traded to the Cardinals it was 1.74 in 13 appearances. Sometimes a change of scenery works wonders.

Marc Rzepczynski (Scrabble) had a 7.84 ERA when he was traded to Cleveland, and he compiled a 0.89 ERA the rest of the way.

The Indians are gambling that they are getting the good Axford just like they got the good Scrabble. The Cardinals always have great pitching. I wonder if they noticed something wrong with Axford's mechanics, which they fixed when he got to St. Louis. No question he was a different pitcher once he got to the Cardinals.

There were a lot of closers on the market and this is the guy the Tribe homed in on. I wonder what they know that made them choose Axford over all the other options.
December 16, 2013 - 1:56 AM EST
Just so we're clear, Axford got 7 save opportunities last season, and blew all of them. 7 for 7.
December 16, 2013 - 1:20 AM EST
Yeah, even if the Indians sign Axford to a 1-year deal they have him under control for at least the next three years as long as they offer him arbitration.

Here is the catch, and why the "control" factor probably means little. Assuming the Indians give Axford $5 million for 2014......if he goes out and has a good year he is looking at $7-8M in arbitration next offseason. Sort of align him with the Chris Perez tract. In Perez's ARB1 year he made $4.5M, his arb 2 year he made $7.3M and he was projected to make $10M this year had the Indians offered it to him. I see Axford right around those same amounts the next three years if he has the same kind of showing Perez had, which is quite possible. And I am not sure they will want to pay him $7.3M in 2015....just depends on the payroll situation and just how good he is in 2014. It gives them the flexibility to make that decision without committing to a guaranteed two year deal.

Of course, this is assuming he doesn't get a two-year deal from the Indians (which would be absurd).
December 16, 2013 - 12:49 AM EST
Jim, I think it's just the length. They only have to commit to 2014 with Axford, where they would have to commit to 3 years for Smith, no matter what happens.
December 16, 2013 - 12:34 AM EST
Yep...arbitration eligible next year...

It really is interesting that they get Axford and let Smith go.

I'm not sure what the reasoning is on that, unless they felt like Smith's window was smaller than Axfords, but I don't believe that's true, because Axford depends so much on velocity and movement...and he's had issues with both over the past two years...

Maybe Smith just wanted to goto LA...
December 15, 2013 - 11:53 PM EST
Would much rather have seen Joe Smith resigned and let the closer role work out itself. This guy has not been good the last two years.

Tony, you say we are getting three years of control, does that mean if we sign him to a one year contract, he will be arb eligible after the year?
December 15, 2013 - 11:42 PM EST
Your're welcome! Compiling stats like that is always fun to me haha. And I completely agree with you. More often you need to keep the game close before it's too late and if you don't have anyone good to bridge to your closer, it won't matter because your closer will never be in a save opportunity. It's why I still question the Tiger's bullpen, they lack a legit set-up or any kind of depth. Joba Chamberlain is a question mark still but could flourish in Comerica I guess. If we get Axford cheaper than Perez would have cost, I guess thats okay. Allen as set-up like you said and would Rzepczynski be the lefty/set-up guy?
December 15, 2013 - 11:32 PM EST
Joey, thanks for sharing and that aligns with how teams just are no longer overpaying for closers like they used to. It is no longer considered the most important role in the bullpen, and rightfully so, and why you are starting to see 7th/8th inning guys get paid a lot. THOSE are the most valuable innings because situations that arise where relievers are needed in those innings come up much more than save situations in the ninth.
December 15, 2013 - 11:04 PM EST
Sounds like another STIFF, to me. We have to settle for this crap? We are supposed to contend this year, I doubt he makes it thru June!
December 15, 2013 - 10:57 PM EST
Hey Tony, I made an excel spreadsheet of the closers from 2009 and 2013 with the main criteria being who took the majority of save opportunities those years for their teams. I chose those years because that season was the first year with Kerry Wood and the most recent season since we're looking for a closer for this next season. There were about 38 closers in 2009 and 37 were in 2013. It's interesting because the average salary actually dropped from 4.2 mil in 2009 to 3.8 in 2013 for closer. I thought I'd share that info with you, i found it interesting myself haha.
December 15, 2013 - 10:56 PM EST
CP. Nice.
December 15, 2013 - 10:39 PM EST
1. Go to, look up John Axford.
2. Look at the bottom of the page, "similarity scores"
3. With a score of 961 (out of a possible 1000) Axford's identical twin in the MLB is....

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