Teams eyeing Canadian free agent Axford

John Axford delivers a pitch (Jeffrey Phelps/AP).
December 4, 2013, 5:08 PM

Soon after the St. Louis Cardinals non-tendered John Axford and made him a free agent, the reliever posted a faux-personal ad on his Twitter account.

“Tall athletic male with blue/green eyes and a love for film and mustaches seeking loving team for employment,” Axford wrote.

But even if the 30-year-old native of Port Dover, ON jokes about his job prospects, he has drawn considerable interest from MLB teams since hitting free agency early Tuesday morning. In the day and a half since the Cardinals released Axford, agent Dan Horwits of Beverly Hills Sports Council heard from 14 MLB teams.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of interest in John,” Horwits told sportsnet.ca, noting that teams have expressed interest in Axford as a set-up reliever and closer.

Axford rose to prominence as the Milwaukee Brewers’ closer in 2010 after experiencing many highs and lows on his way to the big leagues. He was viewed as a promising draft prospect before undergoing Tommy John surgery late in 2003. He then battled command issues in the New York Yankees’ minor-league system, pitched for the Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League and bartended to make ends meet.

Axford led the National League with 46 saves in 2011 but struggled in 2012 and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.  The right-hander posted a 4.02 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 26 walks in 75 regular season games for the Brewers and Cardinals before pitching in six postseason games for St. Louis.

But the Cardinals have a deep bullpen that includes affordable right-handed arms such as Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez, so Axford became expendable with a projected arbitration salary approaching $6 million. He’s now a free agent — with a twist.

“The unique part about John is when he signs, he comes with additional years of control,” Horwits said.

The team that signs Axford will control his rights through the 2016 season, since he’s days shy of four years of MLB service. This creates additional appeal for teams seeking relievers that can be retained beyond 2014.

In other words, there’s a good chance no more personal ads will be required of Axford this off-season.

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