The Brewers announced they’ve acquired reliever John Axford from the Blue Jays for cash considerations. Axford signed a minor league deal with Toronto in June and was not on the Jays’ 40-man roster, which is why he’s eligible to be traded even after last Friday’s deadline.
Axford will be selected to Milwaukee’s big league roster before this evening’s game against the Pirates, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (Twitter link). His season debut will be his first big league appearance since August 2018.
It’s an incredible comeback for the 39-year-old, who’d barely pitched in any capacity between his last big league stint and his signing with the Blue Jays six weeks ago. Axford missed essentially all of the 2019 season on the minor league injured list, and his hopes of returning to affiliated ball last year were derailed by the pandemic.
Given Axford’s age, it seemed likely his playing career was over after two lost seasons. But he remained in shape — even as he did some work as a television analyst — and made it back to professional ball with Toronto. Axford has made the best of his somewhat limited body of work with Triple-A Buffalo over the past month-plus, tossing 10 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He’s struck out an impressive fourteen batters faced while issuing just three walks. Along the way, he’s shown a fastball in the 96-98 MPH range, per Scott Mitchell of TSN.
That strong work was enough to catch the attention of the Milwaukee front office, who’s now set to give Axford a chance to carry over that success against big league hitters once again. The veteran righty was one of the better closers in baseball during the first few years of the last decade and has been generally solid overall, working to a 3.87 ERA across 525 1/3 big league innings.
Of course, Axford’s biggest success came in Milwaukee. He broke into the majors with the Brewers in 2009 and pitched with the team through 2013. Axford led the National League in saves (46) in 2011, en route to a ninth-place finish in NL Cy Young Award voting that year. He worked to a 3.35 ERA in his first four-plus seasons with the Brew Crew and his 106 career saves in a Milwaukee uniform ranks second in franchise history.