According to a report from Patrick Mooney, the Cubs are interested in John Axford to possibly close games next season and the former Brewers’ closer is interested in signing with the Cubs.
The Cubs are hoping to upgrade their bullpen and add both a starter and an outfielder and are one of at least 14 teams that has shown interest in John Axford since the Cardinals did not tender him a contract for next season.
Axford struggled mightily last season for the Brewers before he was dealt to St. Louis on August 30 for a PTBNL that ended up being RHP Michael Blazek, John Axford pitched okay for the Cardinals in 13 games (1.74 ERA, 1.36 WHIP).
John Axford is not eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, so the team he signs with would have three years of control. The Brewers paid Axford $5 million last year.
John Axford has regressed over the last two years after his breakout performance during the 2011 season. Axford was 2-2 in 74 games in 2011 with a 1.95 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Axford saved 46 games for the Brewers. Axford stumbled to the tune of a 5-8 record the next season with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in 75 games. Axford posted 35 saves in 2012.
Last year in 75 total appearances with the Brewers and Cardinals, Axford was 7-7 with a 4.02 ERA and an alarming 1.52 WHIP (73 hits, 26 walks and 65 strikeouts in 65 innings).
Patrick Mooney included very interesting quotes from Theo Epstein on his view about closers.
“There are pitchers we have on the roster that we feel comfortable pitching that ninth inning. But at the same time, it’s a nice carrot to be able to dangle in free agency. Maybe we can’t match another team in some area, but here we can give them the responsibility of the ninth inning and the marketability of the ninth inning and see if we can use that to our advantage to build a better overall bullpen.”
“It’s always better to just find talent that hasn’t been given the opportunity yet in the ninth inning, and then give them that responsibility and let them add to their market value, whether it’s through trade or for a future contract. (But) just because a guy has saves on his resume and therefore might cost a little more, he still might be a nice option – as long as you’re making sure you’re paying for talent and not just for a stat that (Chicago baseball writer) Jerome Holtzman made up.”
The Cubs have added Wesley Wright to the bullpen mix and have not ruled out Pedro Strop or Hector Rondon closing games for the team next season, plus a healthy Arodys Vizcaino would give Rick Renteria more options late in games.