The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired right-hander John Axford off waivers from the Cleveland Indians, the teams announced on Thursday. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the claim. The Indians let Axford go to the Pirates for nothing, as while they could not get a trade done, they decided to let Pittsburgh be on the hook for the rest of his salary this season, which is approximately $1.1 million.
After being non-tendered by the St. Louis Cardinals last season, Axford agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract with Cleveland. In 49 games with the Indians, Axford is 2-3 with a 3.92 ERA, 4.71 FIP, and a 1.466 WHIP. He has a troubling 51 to 30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his 43 2/3 innings pitched.
Earlier today, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reported that the Pirates outrighted fellow relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri to Triple-A Indianapolis. To fill that void, the Pirates do not have to give up anything besides taking on the $1.1 million that Axford is owed for the rest of the year. And while Axford has shown his struggles this year with command, the Pirates bullpen that has the sixth-highest FIP in the league could use anyone they can find.
In 2011, Axford was a primer closer for the Milwaukee Brewers. He led the National League with 46 saves that year, posting a 1.95 ERA and a 2.41 FIP in 73 2/3 innings pitched. His 202 ERA+ was a career high. In the three years since that time, Axford has a 4.25 ERA and a 4.32 FIP in 178 innings, while saving just 45 games. Prior to this year (he has 10 saves this year), he had not saved a game since 2012.
The Pirates currently sit tied for second place in the National League Central race. At 64-57, they are 2 1/2 games behind the leading Milwaukee Brewers. They hope Axford can shut down opponents late in games to help lead to more victories. That is something their bullpen has struggled with this year.
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