Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic broke news tonight that soon-to-be 35 year old right-handed reliever John Axford has been signed by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sources: #BlueJays in agreement with free-agent reliever John Axford.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 9, 2018
The Simcoe, Ontario native played for the Oakland A’s the last two seasons and while his K/9 rate remains strong (9.0), his always inconsistent BB/9 rate spiked to an ugly 7.1 leading to a career high (by a wide margin) ERA of 6.43 (FIP 5.73) in 2017 and an eventual DFA and release. He also spent some time on the disabled list during the year with a shoulder injury though, so that could definitely have been a factor in his career-worst struggles. Regardless, he’s definitely coming off a very poor season.
Prior to last year, though, he was a steady if unspectacular contributor across the previous three seasons (and four different teams) with a 4.04 ERA, 3.97 FIP, and 9.5 K/9. Axford has also always generated a high amount of groundballs, with rates around 55% from 2014 to 2016. When combined with the strikeout rate, it’s easy to see why teams have always been interested in the Canadian hurler. He has always walked more than you’d like, but otherwise he’s had a serviceable career since his career-year at 28 when he saved 46 games for the Brewers.
PECOTA projects a 4.66 ERA for Axford in 2018, which one assumes would change in light of the knowledge of where he’ll be pitching. In short, like the previous signings of Al Alburquerque and Jake Patricka to minor league deals (there’s no word yet on the terms here but it seems very likely to also be of the minor-league-with-an-invite variety) this is an interesting zero-risk move that adds spring depth while not tying the team’s hands. If Axford is anything like his former self, he provides a solid reliever with major league experience. Given the lack of veterans in this bullpen, that could have some nice value.
Welcome home, John.
As expected, per Shi Davidi, the deal is a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. There is absolutely no risk to this move. No risk, decent potential reward. Nice signing.
#BlueJays agreement with John Axford is a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league camp, per source.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) February 9, 2018
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