John Axford is the Brewers closer again

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At the end of July, amid an epic, multi-game meltdown of the Brewers bullpen, Ron Roenicke decided to go to a closer-by-committee approach. That’s over now, and John Axford has his old job back, it seems. Axford was put in after the Brewers turned a 5-0 lead into a save situation against the Cubs last night. And Roenicke liked what he saw:

“This is a guy we would obviously like to be in that closer role,” Roenicke said. “And the reason we took him out of it is to try and do what’s best for him to get back into that role. I think when he was out of it, I think he pitched well enough to allow us the confidence that we think we can put him back in there now.”

Overall Axford hasn’t exactly been lights-out since he was pulled from the closer’s role, so it’s not like he’s a new man or something.  But it’s at least worth Milwaukee figuring out what they have with him now, when the games no  longer really matter as opposed to going into the offseason unsure of it.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.