TORONTO – A chance to show he can regain his past form as a closer is a big selling point for free-agent reliever John Axford, who confirmed Saturday that the Toronto Blue Jays are among the teams to have shown interest in his services.
The right-hander from Ancaster, Ont., saved 46 games in 2011 and 35 more in 2012 for the Milwaukee Brewers before falling out of the role in 2013 and then failing to hold the job with the Cleveland Indians last year, when he saved 10 games.
The Blue Jays have yet to address a bullpen that general manager Alex Anthopoulos described as a weak spot last season, and are in search of a closer with Casey Janssen in free agency. Aaron Sanchez, ticketed for the rotation, is one internal option, but bringing in someone via trade, or a bounce-back signing like Axford, is possible, too.
“That would be fantastic, it’s still something I definitely want to do, it really is,” Axford said of signing with a team that has an opening at closer. “I want to be able to grab a hold of that job again at some point in my career and prove that I can do it again, and it’s not just a two-year fling.”
Axford was 2-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 54.2 innings over 62 games for the Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates last year. He struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings but also walked 5.9 per nine innings, his highest total during a full season in the majors.
Given his pedigree and that his fastball averaged 94.7 m.p.h. last year, interest in him has come from “a few different teams, the Jays being one of them.”
“Just awaiting some more information, some more talking and figure some things out,” he added.
Asked whether he had any offers on the table, Axford replied, “right now, just interest.”
And as far as ranking the interest from those courting him, he said: “It’s been pretty even, I’d say, across the board. It would really be based on offers, that’s where the rankings would come in and obviously the fit with the team, where the team is and what the team has accomplished or wants to accomplish. That’s where the rankings come in for me. Right now it’s just interest, and we’ll take it from there.”