This is part three in a five part series considering tradeable Brewers not named Prince Fielder. Parts one and two ran earlier this morning.
John Axford was one of the 2010 Brewers' most interesting and fun storylines. He's a former independent leaguer and bartender who signed with the Brewers when they were the only organization to show up for his showcase for teams. And, despite entering the season with just 7.2 innings of experience and one major league save, he became the Brewers' closer in May and both held and solidified his position in the role.
Reasons to make a move:
Regression: Over four seasons in the minors (including early 2010), Axford averaged 6 walks and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings. As a big leaguer, he walked 4.2 per nine and struck out 11.8 this season. It's possible he figured something out and will maintain this level of production going forward, but it's also possible (and probably more likely) that he'll regress back towards his minor league numbers.
Saves are an overrated stat. Like wins and RBI, over the years saves have proven to be a great way to inflate a reliever's value. A great reliever with no saves is a valuable commodity but when you throw in a couple of dozen saves, you'll find a team willing to overpay.
Here's an example. In 2010 eight pitchers met the following criteria: 50+ IP, less than 4.5 BB/9, more than 11 strikeouts/9, ERA under 3. Here they are:
Odds are you knew that the first three closers had excellent seasons. But the odds would also suggest that many of you don't even remember what team Benoit, Thornton or Saito pitched for. Despite the fact that they had statistically similar seasons to the other relievers on this list, the saves make the first three appear elite.
Contract status: Axford finished the 2010 season with roughly a year of service time. If the Brewers dealt him now they'd be trading away five seasons of a potentially elite reliever, which could net a very nice return.
Internal options: The Brewers aren't exactly hurting for relief prospects. Any of the three of Zach Braddock, Jeremy Jeffress or Mark Rogers could easily be assigned the "closer of the future" designation.
Reasons to hold on:
Contract status: As mentioned above, Axford is under team control for five more seasons and will make near the league minimum for the next two. If he doesn't regress, the Brewers could have an anchor in the end of their bullpen for the foreseeable future.
Public relations: Axford was one of the most popular 2010 Brewers. Trading him at the peak of his popularity would likely draw some criticism unless the Brewers got a high-impact and immediate return back.
What do you think?