In a surprise twist the America-loving Americans who, while longing for their old home in Cleveland and dreaming of watching ESPN and Fourth of July barbecues, have the run of Canada’s team — your Toronto Blue Jays — seem to have, for a moment, turned their backs on their beloved countrymen. Despite there being multitudes of Americans who would gladly take a contract offer from a major league baseball team, the Canada-haters have momentarily swallowed their pride and actually signed a Canadian. John Axford is now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays!
Or… he’s part of the organization, at least.
Sources: #BlueJays in agreement with free-agent reliever John Axford.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 9, 2018
#BlueJays agreement with John Axford is a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league camp, per source.
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) February 9, 2018
The Port Dover, Ontario-born hurler, and movie buff, is a damn nice little pick-up. Though, of course, there’s no such thing as a bad minor league deal.
A journeyman, Axford sped the last two seasons with the Oakland A’s, but had horrific command problems in 2017, walking 17 in 21 innings before getting D’d FA in July (bringing an early end to a two-year, $10-million deal).
Walks have always been an issue for Axford (he has 238 in 470 career innings), but with that the Jays (or Bisons) are due to get some tasty strikeout numbers, too. He had 21 in his 21 innings last season for Oakland, 60 in 65.2 the year before, and 62 in 55.2 the year before that.
He still has a big fastball — he averaged 95.0 in 2017, down just a little from 95.7 and 96.1 the previous years, couples that with a hard slider and a curveball. He’s not exactly at his best against left-handed batters, striking out just 14.3% of the 42 he faced in 2017, and 16.8% of the 131 he saw in 2016 (though he’s limited walks in the split). But the strikeout numbers are significantly better (22.4% in 2017, 24.1% in 2016) against right-handers.
In 2016 lefties hit him to the tune of just .252/.321/.350 and right-handers .256/.359/.385. Thanks to those walks that’s a little higher on-base vs. RHB than you’d like to see, but a season like that would be very helpful to the Jays’ pen. In 2017 everything went sideways for Axford, but having a chance on getting the 2016 version certainly makes this move a risk worth taking.
Plus, he’s a guy you want to to root for. He’s a good Twitter follow. A smart and interesting dude. And, yes, he’s Canadian.
It’s all upside.
This could be fun, even!