Blue Jays agree to deal with Canadian reliever John Axford

The Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran Canadian reliever John Axford.

Axford, who turns 35 on April 1, is coming off a struggle-filled 2017 campaign in which he battled a shoulder injury and posted a 6.43 ERA over 21 innings, before being released by the Oakland Athletics.

The Ancaster, Ont., native owns a 3.71 ERA and 10.2 K/9 ratio over nine big-league seasons, spent with the Brewers, Cardinals, Indians, Pirates, Rockies and A’s.

His best season came in 2011 when he saved 46 games for Milwaukee while posting a 1.95 ERA over 73.2 innings and finishing ninth in National League Cy Young voting and 17th in MVP voting.

Right-handers Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes, along with lefty Aaron Loup project as locks in Toronto’s bullpen at the outset of 2018. Other candidates for relief roles include Jake Petricka — who the Blue Jays reportedly signed on Thursday to a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to MLB spring training — Al Alburquerque, Rhiner Cruz, Matt Dermody, Tim Mayza and Carlos Ramirez.

Axford features a dynamic fastball that averaged 95 m.p.h. last season, along with a curveball and slider. He’s just one year removed from a strong campaign with Oakland: In 2016, he sported a 3.97 ERA and 4.01 FIP over 65.2 innings.

Control issues have dogged Axford throughout his entire career, evidenced by his 4.55 BB/9 rate. However, Axford has been equally effective against right (.710 OPS against) and left-handed hitters (.666 OPS) throughout his time in the majors.