We’re about a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, but we have action in the free agent market. The Toronto Blue Jays signed 34-year-old John Axford per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Details of the deal remain to be released. Axford will have a homecoming of sorts as he is a native of Simcoe, Ontario.
John Axford Signs With The Toronto Blue Jays
Axford pitched for the Oakland Athletics last season and it wasn’t a stellar campaign. In 22 games he went 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings and a -0.2 WAR. His command, or lack thereof, resulted in a 7.3 BB/9 and an 11.6 H/9. He totaled 17 walks and 27 hits. He did, however, pick up 21 strikeouts.
Axford will be going into his ninth year at the major league level and while 2017 was a down year, he’s put together a productive eight-year career. He has a career 34-33 record with a 3.71 ERA. He’s recorded 144 saves in 470.2 innings and has 535 career strikeouts.
Given Axford’s performance last season, he could see a one-year minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.
If indeed he gets a minor league contract, he’ll be fighting for a spot in the Jays bullpen. Closer Roberto Osuna and relievers Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes, along with lefty Aaron Loup will all be locks for the Toronto’s bullpen, but there are other candidates to fill out the Blue Jays bullpen. Jake Petricka, Al Alburquerque, Rhiner Cruz, Matt Dermody, Tim Mayza and Carlos Ramirez were all given Spring Training invites and Axford will have to fight for the remaining bullpen positions.
Before last season, Axford was coming off a strong campaign in 2016. He turned in a 3.97 ERA with a 4.01 FIP in 65.2 innings. Axford featured a 95 MPH fastball, curveball, and slider last season.
Axford has struggled with his command but he’s managed to do well against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. Against righties, he’s had a .710 OPS, and he’s posted a .666 OPS against lefties throughout his career.
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