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Friday, December 6, 2013

Cubs rumors: John Axford is a possible closer

By on 12/06/2013 10:00:00 PM

The Chicago Cubs are in dire need of bullpen help, especially in the closer's role. Kevin Gregg is a free agent and unlikely to return to the Cubs. They sought Edward Mujica, but he signed with Boston. Now, as CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney reports, the Cubs are in discussion with former Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford.
Axford was dominant for the Brewers, leading the National League with 46 saves in 2011 and saving 35 more in 2012. He lost his role this past season, and Milwaukee traded him to St. Louis on August 30. He recorded no saves in 2013.

Still, with the Cubs' bullpen situation, signing Axford could help a great deal. He has 106 career saves and a 3.29 ERA. However, control sometimes escapes him, but when he finds the strike zone, he is as tough as they come. He was 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA after the trade and allowed just one run in 5.2 postseason innings.

Mooney says that 14 teams have contacted Axford after the Cardinals non-tendered him. He would have earned $4 million after making $5 million in 2013. Theo Epstein said that he can offer Axford something that most of the other teams cannot: the chance to become a closer once again, but he will have to compete with Pedro Strop and Kyuji Fujikawa (when he returns from Tommy John surgery). Said Epstein,
“There are pitchers we have on the roster that we feel comfortable pitching that ninth inning. But at the same time, it’s a nice carrot to be able to dangle in free agency. Maybe we can’t match another team in some area, but here we can give them the responsibility of the ninth inning and the marketability of the ninth inning and see if we can use that to our advantage to build a better overall bullpen.”
Axford is 30, but he is also very healthy. He had Tommy John surgery in 2003, but he has not missed a single Major League game to injury since he debuted in 2009. The Cubs need a closer, and Axford has proven himself before. With the Cubs, he could get a chance to prove himself once again.

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