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Mets Non-Tendered Targets: John Axford

The former Brewers closer looked like his old self down the stretch in 2013.

Rob Carr

First signed by the Yankees in 2006 as an amateur free agent, John Axford started playing professionally at the age of 24 in 2007. The Yankees released him later that year, and he joined the Brewers in 2008. He was fairly effective across his first three seasons in the minors but really struggled with high walk rates before figuring things out in 2010.

The year, Axford burst onto the major league scene as a 27-year-old rookie in Milwaukee. Over his first two seasons, he posted a 2.19 ERA and 183 ERA+ with 11.1 strikeouts, 3.6 walks, and 0.3 home runs allowed per nine innings. And he spent the grand majority of that time as the team’s closer.

In 2012, however, his numbers took a dive. With a 4.67 ERA and 88 ERA+, Axford didn’t have any trouble striking out opponents, but his problems with walks returned. He continued to struggle in 2013, and after 62 appearances for the Brewers—none of which were saves—he was traded to the Cardinals. In 13 appearances there, he looked more like his old self, posting a 1.74 ERA with excellent peripherals.

In total, Axford’s career numbers—3.29 ERA, 3.25 FIP—are good, if unspectacular. He’s seemingly a pretty likeable player, too. After blowing a long streak of consecutive saves, he left a great note for the media after the game. And on the night he was non-tendered by St. Louis, he at least had a sense of humor about it.

Axford is a hard-throwing relief pitcher and has not lost his velocity. He’ll be 31 years old in April, and the only drawback from the Mets’ perspective might be that Axford could generate a little more interest than the average non-tendered relief pitcher on the market. If the team can sign him, though, he certainly seems worth a short-term deal.