The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired relief pitcher John Axford yesterday from the Cleveland Indians. The acquisition was a straight waiver claim. Cleveland had the option of retaining Axford by pulling him off of waivers. Instead the Indians chose to allow Axford to go to the Pirates. The Indians get nothing in return. The Pirates do assume the remainder of Axford’s contract. He is owed a little more than $1 million the rest of this season.
John Axford was once a quality closer with the Brewers. In 2011 he saved 46 games and posted a 1.95 ERA. Since then he has struggled with wildness and gopher balls. This year he posted a 3.92 ERA and a strong strikeout rate of 10.5 K/9. But his control continues to be problematic as this season he has walked over 6 batters per every 9 innings pitched. That is entirely too many free passes. On the surface it doesn’t look like Axford is any better of an option than the other suspects that the Pirates have tried in middle relief this season. However, I still believe this was a decent move. Part of the issue with the Pirates bullpen is the manager just doesn’t trust his middle relievers, and for good reason. They have been pretty terrible this year. But a reliever with a little name recognition like Axford will at least get an opportunity from Hurdle. GM Neal Huntington needed to give Hurdle someone he could show a little faith in. The Pirates bullpen could not continue on with three long relievers that the manager has little trust using in a leverage situation. Jared Hughes can’t be the only reliever to bridge the gap from the starting pitcher to the 8th inning set up man, Tony Watson. Perhaps Axford can be that guy. He might be ok, he might be terrible, but he is worth a shot.