After the slurry of moves around baseball over the past few days, including the Baltimore Orioles trading closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics, today we get back to our free agent profiles and potential targets for the Birds. With the departure of Johnson, the Orioles now have a void at closer, thus we highlight former Brewers closer John Axford.
When it comes to closers, there is a split mindset around baseball where some believe that simply anyone can closer and others believe the opposite, but Axford has proven that he can handle the job.
St. Louis decided to non-tender Axford on Monday, thus making him a free agent and up for grabs as, no disrespect to Axford, a second tier free agent closer.
Axford has pitched in the NL Central for his entire career and mostly with the Brewers, but finished this season with the St. Louis Cardinals. He has posted a career 22-19 record with a 3.29 ERA, 106 saves, and a 1.326 WHIP. His success does not end in the regular season as he has posted a 1.42 ERA with a 1.026 WHIP in 12 career postseason appearances, including 2 1/3 hitless innings in this year's World Series against the Red Sox.
He posted seasons of 24 saves, 46 and 35 in 2010,11, and 12 for the Brewers and led the NL with his 46 in 2011. When most people think of closers, they think hard throwing and strikeouts, and Axford brings that with his 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings career mark.
Of course his WHIP is a bit of a concern as he has a knack for making games exciting at times, but his career mark of four walks per nine innings is the biggest concern with Axford.
Another thing to ponder is the fact that he has spent his entire career in the National League, which history has proven pitchers tend to struggle when making the jump to the American League, but when it comes to closers and relievers as a whole that is not as big of a concern. Relievers in the NL hardly ever face the opposing pitcher, thus they are not getting the "easy" out that starters are getting, thus the reason why it is less of a concern.
When it comes to the Orioles, the elephant in the room is always the money question, and Axford could fit right into the budget for Baltimore. The Cardinals likely denied to tender Axford a contract because of the raise he was going to get in arbitration. At age 30 (will be 31 on April 1) Axford is likely looking for at least a two year deal, but would take a one year deal if no team is willing to go multiple years. We believe he could garner a two year $12-14 million deal, which is not out of the realm of possibility for the Orioles to make the move.
Axford has been reported as being on the Orioles list of interest, but only time will tell if Baltimore is truly looking at the righty as their possible closer of the future.
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