John Axford Rumors

Indians To Sign John Axford

3:06pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Axford can earn an additional $1.75MM worth of incentives, making his contract potentially worth $6.25MM.

MONDAY, 2:45pm: Axford's contract guarantees him $4.5MM in 2014 and also contains incentives, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). That's $1.2MM less than the $5.7MM salary MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected.

SUNDAY, 9:11pm: The financial terms of the deal are unclear, but MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that it will probably be a one-year contract, noting that Axford has two years of arbitration eligibility after this one.

8:46pm: The Indians will sign reliever John Axford, ESPN's Buster Olney reports. Earlier this evening, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Indians were "focused" on Axford.  The righty is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council.

Axford, who will be 31 in April, posted a 4.02 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 65 innings in 2013, although he got better results after the Brewers traded him to the Cardinals in August for Michael Blazek. Axford's success extended into the postseason, when he allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings spread over six outings. Nonetheless, the Cardinals non-tendered him rather than pay a 2014 salary that would have been inflated as a result of the $5MM Axford made in 2013, his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Axford served as the Brewers' closer for most of the 2010 through 2012 seasons, although he lost that job after a bout of wildness in 2012. Even in 2012, however, Axford struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings, and he still has dominant stuff, with a fastball that averaged 95.3 MPH in 2013. Axford will likely be entrusted with the closer's job in Cleveland, where the Indians were looking to replace the departing Chris Perez.


Indians Strongly Interested In John Axford

The Indians are "focused" on signing John Axford, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. Axford would presumably fill the Indians' vacancy at closer. Earlier today, Indians team president Mark Shapiro said that the Indians would soon acquire a reliever with closing experience. Axford, who served as the Brewers' closer for much of 2010 through 2012, would fit the bill.

The Brewers traded Axford to the Cardinals in August for Michael Blazek, and the Cardinals non-tendered Axford even though he pitched well for them both down the stretch and in the playoffs. He finished the season with a 4.02 ERA in 65 innings, with 9.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. Axford has been connected with the Mets and Orioles, in addition to the Indians. MLBTR previously suggested that Axford might get a two-year deal as a free agent, despite being non-tendered.


Mets Notes: Axford, Gregg, Drew, Payroll

Both the Mets and Yankees have already made notable signings this offseason, but both Big Apple franchises still need bullpen help, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.  Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters that his team would "take a hard look at" adding veteran relief arms, and to that end, Martino reports that Alderson met with the agent for John Axford and Kevin Gregg on Wednesday.  The Orioles, Cubs, Mariners and Indians are some of the many teams who have shown interest in Axford while Gregg's market has been much quieter.

Here are some more items about the Amazins…

  • "I think it's more likely if we come up with a 'high-end' shortstop or someone we like, it's more likely to come in a trade," Alderson told reporters, including Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.  This seems to hint that the Mets have moved on from Stephen Drew, though Silverman wonders if Alderson could simply be engaging in some gamesmanship.  The Mets have been linked to Drew this winter but aren't eager to give the shortstop a two-year contract.
  • The Mets feel like they would have to overpay to sign Drew and keep him from re-signing with the Red Sox, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links).  The Mets' next move, therefore, is to acquire a young shortstop in a trade.  Rosenthal cites the names of the Diamondbacks' Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings and the Mariners' Brad Miller and Nick Franklin as shortstops who could be candidates to be dealt, though Seattle might not be open to such talks right now since they're "currently preoccupied" with trying to acquire David Price from the Rays.
  • With Johan Santana and Jason Bay off the books, the Mets are closer to finding the so-called payroll "sweet spot" when no single player accounts for an overly-large percentage of a team's payroll, Newsday's Marc Carig writes.  David Wright accounts for roughly 24% of the Mets' projected 2014 payroll, and while this is a larger share than most teams would prefer, Wright is at least the Mets' best player, Carig notes.


Three Teams Have Two-Year Offers To Balfour

4:56pm: The Orioles aren't the team that has offered Balfour a vesting option, tweets Encina.

3:40pm: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles are one of three teams that has made a two-year offer to Balfour. One team's offer contains a vesting option for a third season, he adds. Connolly isn't sure which team has offered the vesting option, but he gets the sense that it's not the Orioles (Twitter links).

1:45pm: The O's prefer Balfour on a two-year deal, and one other club is still in the mix at this time, tweets Heyman.

12:56pm: Years are the main sticking point in negotiations with Balfour, tweets Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun.

THURSDAY, 11:54am: The Orioles are confident that they can sign Balfour, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

WEDNESDAY: The Orioles have an offer out to reliever Grant Balfour and others as they try to fill four holes in their lineup, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  The O's also have an offer out to John Axford, a source tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  Heyman also notes that Baltimore has talked to Nelson Cruz's agent, but a source tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter) that the club hasn't made an offer to him.

Heyman writes that the O's are also in on an unnamed starting pitcher.  Baltimore also has to address holes at closer, left field, and at DH.  Balfour is their top choice to replace Jim Johnson as a closer with Axford and Chris Perez believed to be secondary options.


Quick Hits: Dodgers, Arroyo, Giants, Axford

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told reporters, including Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter), that he has met with "far more agents than teams" at the winter meetings. He added that he doesn't expect any deals to go down before leaving tomorrow.

  • Although the Reds have met with Bronson Arroyo's agent in the last 24 hours, they're telling clubs they expect him to sign elsewhere, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
  • Giants assisstant GM Bobby Evans says the club is "equally close" on trade and free agent options for a left fielder, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • The Indians are believed to have made an offer to free agent reliever John Axford, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Earlier tonight, we learned that the Orioles have also made an offer to Axford, though they prefer Grant Balfour.
  • The Rays have expressed interest in Kevin Youkilis, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Youkilis would fit the Rays' mold as a player on the rebound.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (on Twitter) that he's focused on winning a championship but he's still in a spot where he has to keep finances in mind.

Relief Rumors: Lefties, Axford, Papelbon, Benoit, Guerrier, Rays

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the top left-handed relievers on the market — J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Eric O'Flaherty and Scott Downs — should begin to start coming off the board in the next 24 to 48 hours. It's already been reported that O'Flaherty is in talks with the Braves about a return to Atlanta. Here's the latest on the market for relievers…

  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that there's a sense that the Nationals will land a left-handed reliever today.
  • The Orioles have had talks with John Axford, tweets Morosi. They're also said to be the current favorites for Grant Balfour.
  • A rival executive estimated that the Phillies would have to eat about 40 to 50 percent of Jonathan Papelbon's remaining salary to trade him, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Papelbon is owed $13MM in each of the next two seasons and has a vesting option for a fifth year.
  • The Rockies have had discussions with Joaquin Benoit but are a ways apart in terms of salary, Morosi reports. Talks between the two sides are fading, as Benoit appears likely to seek a more lucrative deal elsewhere (Twitter links).
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted yesterday that when the dust settles from the Winter Meetings, Matt Guerrier's name could be a of interest to the Indians.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that even after re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo and acquiring Heath Bell, the Rays are still looking to improve their bullpen. One option could be injured lefty Jordan Norberto, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season.

Orioles Considered Favorites For Grant Balfour

10:06am: The O's and Balfour have exchanged parameters, according to Kubatko (Twitter link). The Orioles are still haggling Balfour, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sport. As Heyman notes, Chris Perez and Axford are alternative options.

(Note: MLBTR misinterpreted Heyman's original tweet to mean that the O's are haggling with Perez and Axford, which is not the case. Thanks to Jon for the correction.)

9:28am: The Orioles haven't made a former offer to Balfour, but that step is likely coming later today, and Baltimore is considered the favorite to land his services, per Kubatko (on Twitter).

9:11am: The Orioles are "trying to get a deal done" with free agent closer Grant Balfour, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Balfour and Baltimore are currently in talks, though no deals are in place. Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets that the O's have also met with John Axford's agents this week.

The Orioles traded Jim Johnson and his projected $10.8MM salary to the Athletics and have been said to be in the market for a more affordable closer. Balfour and Axford would both represent more affordable alternatives, though Balfour's price tag figures to be steeper than Axford's, as the latter of the two was non-tendered. The savings on Balfour may not be great in comparison to Johnson's salary, though Axford could certainly represent a significant cost-savings.


Reliever Rumors: Mets, Orioles, Mariners, Tigers

Considering how many teams continue to seek bullpen help, it shouldn't come as a surprise that we're following up our earlier post on reliever rumors with another round of them. Let's dive in…

  • The Mets have kicked the tires on Chris Perez as a potential late-inning addition, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com (Twitter link). DiComo notes that Perez could serve as ninth-inning insurance for New York if Bobby Parnell isn't healthy.
  • In addition to Perez, Mitchell Boggs is receiving interest from the Mets, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Boggs was non-tendered after a subpar 2013, but is viewed as an intriguing buy-low candidate by New York, says Sherman.
  • Baltimore could be another potential fit for Perez, but the Orioles are also eyeing Grant Balfour and John Axford, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
  • The Mariners don't appear to be prioritizing bullpen additions at this point, according to GM Jack Zduriencik, who says that with their available money, the M's "would look at adding a legitimate closer as a lower priority" (Twitter link via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune).
  • Noting that Dave Dombrowski has suggested the Tigers may take a flier on a veteran as insurance for Bruce Rondon, MLB.com's Jason Beck wonders if Octavio Dotel might be a fit to return to Detroit (Twitter link).

AL East Notes: Price, Orioles, Axford, Hinske

Since 2008, teams that have traded top-of-the-rotation pitchers usually haven't gotten much in return, ESPN's Mike Petriello argues (Insider-only). The Diamondbacks' trade of Dan Haren for Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, Rafael Rodriguez and Joe Saunders was unusual, Petriello argues. Instead, what typically happens looks more like the weak returns various teams have received when they dealt Cliff Lee. The Indians' trade of C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers, which produed Michael Brantley and little else. That's worth keeping in mind as we prepare for weeks of rumors involving David Price and the Rays. The Rays did, of course, pull off one very good trade of a high-level starting pitcher when they shipped James Shields (and Wade Davis) to Kansas City in return for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and others. But that doesn't mean they can do it twice. Here are more notes on the AL East.

  • The Orioles have already lost Scott Feldman (Astros) and Nate McLouth (Nationals) to free agency and Jim Johnson (Athletics) to a trade, and the team seems "unwilling to make even a cursory attempt to compete for quality talent outside the organization," Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes. With only Ryan Webb, Francisco Peguero, Jemile Weeks and a few other low-profile acquisitions on the other side of the docket so far, "fans have every right to wonder what exactly is their plan to compete for the American League East title," Schmuck says.
  • The Orioles, along with the Cubs and Mariners, are all interested in John Axford, who was non-tendered by the Cardinals last week, tweets CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, who also suggests that Axford has a chance of landing a job as a closer.
  • Eric Hinske only worked in the Yankees' scouting department for a month before leaving to become the Cubs' first base coach, but he helped convince Brian McCann to sign on for five years in New York, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger writes. Hinske and McCann played together in Atlanta from 2010 through 2013. "[Hinske] was involved. He helped me with Brian McCann," says Yankees GM Brian Cashman. "So I appreciate Eric Hinske giving Brian McCann a lot of good advice about his experience here with the Yankees. He was a great resource for about 30 days."

Central Notes: Phillips, Axford, Joba, Buck

Here's the latest news from both the NL and AL Central divisions…

  • The Brandon Phillips trade rumors may have temporarily stopped, though Reds president/CEO Bob Castellini left the door slightly open when talking to reporters today (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon and the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay).  "Brandon is part of the team, boys," Castellini said.  "Walt [GM Walt Jocketty] was just exploring.  You have to understand what he's up against. He's got to look around. Brandon Phillips is an integral part of this franchise….But you never say never."
  • The Cubs and John Axford share a mutual interest in each other, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports.  Axford would get a chance to compete for the Cubs' closing job, though the right-hander seemingly has plenty of opportunities around the league, with a reported 14 teams checking in following his non-tender from the Cardinals.
  • The Cubs and Royals are two of the teams who have shown interest in Joba Chamberlain, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets.  No signing seems to be imminent for either team, however.  Chamberlain is another relief arm who has drawn significant attention on the open market, as he may be seen as a reclamation candidate after some tough seasons with the Yankees.
  • The Twins have spoken to John Buck's agent, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, and a source tells Berardino that Buck is Minnesota's top target amongst available catchers.  It isn't clear how interested in the Twins are, however, given that Josmil Pinto is still the club's preferred choice to take over the everyday catching job now that Joe Mauer has been moved to first base.
  • Carl Pavano talked with Berardino about his comeback attempt from a freak snow-shoveling accident that left him with a ruptured spleen and sidelined the veteran righty for the entire 2013 season.  Pavano said the Twins haven't contacted him about a return: "I haven't really talked to them.  I don't know if that would be a good fit anyway. I think we're in different places. They need those younger guys in their rotation."