The Toronto Blue Jays inked a pair of pitchers on Thursday on minor league deals
The Ax man cometh back.
John Axford had expressed a desire to return to the Toronto Blue Jays. He has apparently gotten his wish.
Axford has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Jays. Assuming he makes the team out of spring training, he will need to be added to the 40 man roster.
Axford was 4-1 with a 4.41 era in 45 games with the Blue Jays in 2018 before being traded to the Dodgers. Unfortunately he suffered a fractured fibula after being hit with a comebacker on August 12, 2018 and didn’t pitch in the postseason for the Dodgers. He has also previously played for the Brewers, Cardinals, Indians, Pirates, Rockies and Athletics.
The 35 year old offers a veteran presence to a team that will be focusing on a youth movement. When healthy, the 10 year MLB veteran still possesses swing and miss stuff. He had 8.9 strikeouts per 9 innings in 2018.
Axford, a native of Simcoe, Ontario had expressed a preference for returning to Canada’s lone MLB team, in part so that he can be near his family during the season. When it was mentioned to him that he could once again face the possibility of being traded to a contender at the 2019 trade deadline as he was in 2018, he replied that he would keep coming back to the Blue Jays. If nothing else, the organization has to be impressed with his loyalty.
No word on whether Axford received a bullpen cart as a signing bonus.
The Blue Jays weren’t done adding pitching depth. They also signed LHP pitcher Ryan Feierabend to a minor league deal, pending a physical.
Feierabend is an interesting story. The 33 year old pitched in MLB with the Seattle Mariners from 2006-2008 and with the Texas Rangers in 2014. Feierabend struggled in MLB to the tune of a 7.15 era. From 2015-2018 he pitched in Korea. Still not having the kind of results he hoped for, he decided to add a new weapon to his repertoire:
Feierabend isn’t your typical knuckleball pitcher by any means. While the majority of knuckleball pitchers throw most or all knuckleballs, Feierabend throws his roughly 20% of the time as an out pitch. Initial results were very encouraging. He led the league in era in 2017 at 3.04. He didn’t do quite as we’ll in 2018 however – his era rose back up to 4.30. Now Feierabend will see how well his new and improved arsenal translates to MLB.
This all seems very similar to last year for the Blue Jays. They signed several veteran pitchers to minor league deals and evaluated them through spring training. In addition to Axford and Tyler Clippard the Blue Jays had Craig Breslow and Al Alburquerque in camp last spring. Axford and Clippard pitched well enough in exhibition games to convince management that they could still pitch effectively at the major league level and they made the team. The others did not.
The Blue Jays might still have more of these type of moves coming and that isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, these low risk type of moves really cost next to nothing. They aren’t committing a roster spot until they have decided who (if any) they want to bring north when camp breaks and minor league deals cost very little financially. With all the unsigned free agents there are who are still looking for jobs, it wouldn’t be surprising at all for there to be even more competition for spots in the Blue Jays bullpen when Grapefruit League games begin.
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