The Brewers found themselves in a tough situation this year with longtime bullpen arm John Axford. Axford's flashes of dominance proved he belonged in the majors, but his inconsistent performances pushed him out of the ninth inning role and his relatively high arbitration salary ($5 million) made him a likely candidate to be cut loose following the season.
The Brewers were unable to move Axford before the non-waiver trade deadline, but on August 30 they cut a deal to send him to St. Louis for minor leaguer Michael Blazek. The two pitchers actually both have a fair amount in common: They're longtime, somewhat unheralded minor leaguers with great velocity but also control issues. Blazek struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings in the minors in 2013 but also walked 5.1.
Blazek made 18 appearances in the big leagues this season but only seven of them came as a Brewer. The 3.86 ERA and reduced walk rate he produced in seven innings as a Brewer are encouraging, but that's also a really small sample size to use as a predictor for future performance.
Doug Melvin does have a pretty good track record when it comes to plucking guys out of relative obscurity and getting value from them. Next spring Blazek is likely to get a chance to become the newest such story.
Blazek's last appearance of the season may have been his most important, as the Brewers called him into a 1-1 game in the seventh inning against the Mets on September 28. He allowed an infield single, another ground ball that turned into an error and a walk before recording an out, but worked out of the jam to keep the Brewers in the game.
Here's the highlight from the final out:
Blazek has 67 days of MLB service time between the Cardinals and Brewers in 2013, so he's still three years away from being arbitration-eligible and six years away from free agency.
Perhaps more importantly, Blazek was added to the Cardinals' 40-man roster in November of 2012, so he's been optioned once (in 2013) and appears to have two more remaining. @Mass_Haas, our expert in such matters, confirmed that assumption.
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