2:53pm: MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports that if Axford makes the Major League roster, he will earn a $2.6MM base salary (Twitter link). That’s a fairly significant base salary for a minor league deal and likely explains why Axford was willing to take a non-guaranteed contract. I’d imagine that so long as Axford remains healthy, he’s a good bet to make the roster, and that guarantee may be larger than some big league deals he discussed with other clubs.
Additionally, per Harding, Axford can earn $1.5MM worth of incentives, meaning his deal can max out at $4.1MM.
2:22pm: The Rockies are in agreement with right-hander John Axford on a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, per the team’s transactions page. Axford is a client of the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
Axford, 32 in April, began the 2014 season closing games for the Indians but quickly ceded the job to standout Cody Allen, who took hold of the ninth-inning reins and never looked back. Things weren’t so rosy for Axford, who issued far too many walks and eventually was traded to the Pirates after an August waiver claim. Axford showed slightly better control in Pittsburgh than in Cleveland, and overall the former Brewers stopper pitched to a 3.95 ERA with 10.4 K/9, 5.9 BB/9 and a 53.6 percent ground-ball rate.
While the control numbers are clearly troublesome, Axford’s increase in ground-ball rate would play well in Colorado if he can limit his walks, and he’s never had a problem racking up strikeouts. As I noted earlier this morning, Axford sports (or rather, sported) the best velocity of any remaining free agent reliever, so there’s certainly some upside on this deal.
LaTroy Hawkins figures to man the ninth inning in Denver in what will be his final season, but it’s not out of the question to think that Axford could be in the mix to pick up some saves as well. It’s possible, even, that some ninth-inning work was dangled as an incentive to get him to agree to pitch half of his innings in the hitters’ haven that is Coors Field.