On Friday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the acquisition of right-handed reliever John Axford from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for a player to be named later. Axford, 30, is expected to join the Cardinals Friday night when they begin a seven-game road trip in Pittsburgh, and will wear uniform no. 34.
“John is a reliever that offers experience as both a set-up man and closer,” said Cardinals Senior Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak. “He’s also a pitcher who brings familiarity with the N.L. Central, pennant race baseball and the postseason.”
Axford, who led the National League with 46 saves in 2011 while helping the Brewers to the N.L. Central title, is 6-7 this season with a 4.45 ERA and 19 Holds in 62 games pitched (54.2 IP). Axford was 1-0 with three saves and a 1.29 ERA in six games pitched during the Brewers 2011 postseason run to the N.L Championship Series.
The 6-5, 220-pound Canadian has 106 career saves which rank 22nd among all active players and he finished 6th in the N.L. with 35 rescues for the Brewers last season. Axford, whose entire Major League career (2009-13) has been spent with Milwaukee, is 21-19 lifetime with a 3.35 ERA in 268 games pitched. He’s a perfect 9-for-9 in career save opportunities at Busch Stadium where he has compiled a 1.69 ERA in 16 games.
Axford, who pitched for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic this spring, put together a solid stretch from May 15 to July 24 during which he was un-scored upon in 31 of 32 appearances. He worked a perfect inning of relief against the Pirates, striking out two, in Wednesday night’s Brewers game.
The trade between the Cardinals and Brewers is their first since August 22, 2003 when the Cardinals acquired pitcher Mike DeJean in exchange for two players to be named later (Mike Crudale and John Novinsky).
Brian Walton’s take
There is no doubt that Axford has been an inconsistent pitcher since his 2011 peak. However, as the numbers above indicate, he has been good in a set-up role, which is almost assuredly how he will be used in St. Louis. I could see him tried as the seventh-inning man, ahead of oft-used Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica.
Contractually, Axford is making $5 million this season in his first year of arbitration eligibility. According to MLB.com, no money is changing hands, meaning the Cardinals will cover Axford's remaining 2013 salary.
Axford comes with three additional years of team control – if the Cardinals choose to exercise it. He could serve as insurance given the impending free agency of 2013 closer Edward Mujica and the 2014 return of Jason Motte from Tommy John surgery. Instead, the club could decide to non-tender Axford this off-season, which in effect means setting him free.
Until we see the identity of the player to be named, it is impossible to comment on the other side of the trade. MLB.com reports Brewers general manager Doug Melvin as saying the player will be identified next week.
The Cardinals had both 25-man and 40-man roster openings, so no other transactions are needed to accommodate the addition of Axford. Rosters expand on Sunday and with the minor league regular season schedules ending on Monday, others can be added at that time.