After finishing the 2014 campaign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, right-handed reliever John Axford is heading west, joining the Colorado Rockies on a minor league deal, according to a release from the organization.
Thomas Harding of MLB.com broke down some of the details of the signing in a recent Tweet, adding that Axford stands to earn a $2.6 million base salary if he sticks with the Rockies’ big league bullpen, with the potential to make a total of $4.1 million with the performance bonuses built into the contract.
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The former elite closer, who racked up 105 saves with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2010 to 2012, seemed to take some steps forward last season after struggling in recent years. Control has been a major concern for Axford, but with the closer’s role in Colorado seemingly locked down by longtime veteran LaTroy Hawkins, the pressure should be diminished moving forward.
Axford opened the 2014 campaign as the closer for the Cleveland Indians, but after struggling out of the gate (4.91 ERA/1.909 WHIP in the month of May), he quickly lost his role as the team’s ninth-inning man. He hung on with the Indians until August, when the Pirates claimed him off waivers for the stretch run.
He showed signs of improvement during his time with Pittsburgh, posting a 2.86 FIP in 13 relief appearances. Axford also improved in terms of control, lowering his walks per nine from 6.2 with the Indians to a 4.9 mark with Pittsburgh in an admittedly smaller sample size.
The right-hander doesn’t have a lot of big-time memories with the Pirates, but the team will, in all likelihood, see Axford in matchups with Colorado in 2015. 2015 marks his seventh season in the National League – spending all but the first half of last season with National League Central clubs.