There’s mutual interest between the Cubs and Axford, according to sources familiar with the situation, as Theo Epstein’s front office heads into next week’s winter meetings hoping to upgrade the bullpen and bench while adding another starting pitcher and outfielder. Who’s the closer? Epstein said he probably won’t be able to answer that question until the offseason’s over. But Axford is one of the names the Cubs are considering for the ninth inning.
The Cubs are looking for a closer and Axford has publicly announced via his personal Twitter account he is available.
MST (Man Seeking Team) – Tall athletic male with blue/green eyes and a love for film and mustaches seeking loving team for employment!
— John Axford (@JohnAxford) December 3, 2013
The right-hander will be a hot commodity at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. during Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings.
Axford, 30, was non-tendered by the Cardinals on Monday evening and is under club control through the 2016 season. His agent, Dan Hortwits of Beverly Hills Sports Council, told sportsnet.ca 14 teams are interested in his client.
After being picked up off waivers in September by St. Louis he posted a 1.93 ERA, 1.355 WHIP in 10 1/3 innings including six playoff games. In 2011, Axford led the National League with 46 saves for the Brewers en route to a 96 win season and NL Central title. For his five-year career, Axford has posted a 3.29 ERA, 1.326 WHIP, and 106 saves.
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, has addressed the closer role for the Cubs.
Theo on closers: It's always better to find talent that hasn't been given opportunity yet in 9th inning & them give them that responsibility
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) December 6, 2013
This tweets appears to indicate he is leaning toward having Pedro Strop being the closer. Strop, also a righty, appeared in 66 games, going 2-5 with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 2013.
“It’s always better to just find talent that hasn’t been given the opportunity yet in the ninth inning,” Epstein said, “and then give them that responsibility and let them add to their market value, whether it’s through trade or for a future contract. (But) just because a guy has saves on his resume and therefore might cost a little more, he still might be a nice option – as long as you’re making sure you’re paying for talent and not just for a stat that (Chicago baseball writer) Jerome Holtzman made up.”