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Milwaukee Brewers acquire John Axford from Toronto to join big league bullpen

The former franchise stalwart hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2018.

Baseball: WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier-Canada at Dominica Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Ax Man cometh back home.

Earlier this morning, the Milwaukee Brewers announced that they had acquired right-handed reliever John Axford from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for cash considerations. The Brewers and Blue Jays were able to complete this trade because Axford was on a minor league deal and had not previously been a part of anyone’s 40-man roster in 2021. In fact, Axford began the year as a studio analyst for the Blue Jays, then pitched for Team Canada in the Olympic tryouts, then he signed a minor league deal with Toronto in late June.

Axford spent parts of 5 seasons with the Brewers from 2009-2013, including a stint as the team’s closer during the team’s run to the NLCS in 2011. He posted a 1.95 ERA, led the NL and set a franchise single-season record with 46 saves that season on his way to winning reliever of the year. During his overall time in Milwaukee, he appeared in 268 games and pitched 263.1 innings with a 3.35 ERA (120 ERA+) and 3.29 FIP. He punched out 10.9 batters per nine versus 4.1 BB/9, and was traded to the Cardinals in August 2013 for a PTBN — later, Michael Blazek.

Axford has bounced around since then, appearing in the big leagues for the Cardinals, Athletics, Rockies, Pirates, Dodgers, Indians, and Blue Jays. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2018, although he still averaged 95.9 MPH with his four-seamer at that time. Axford hadn’t pitched at any professional level since 2019 before logging 11.2 innings in the minors for Toronto this season, posting a 0.77 ERA with 15 strikeouts and 3 walks.

Axford will be joining the big league roster for tonight’s game, helping fill the club’s need for right-handed relief depth with multiple players currently inactive due to COVID-19 protocols.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs