With closer Edward Mujica pitching through shoulder problems the Cardinals decided to add some veteran bullpen depth, acquiring former closer John Axford from the Brewers for a player to be named later.
Axford pitched his way out of ninth-inning duties in Milwaukee after saving a league-high 46 games in 2011 and 35 games last season, and had an ugly two-homer appearance over the weekend.
However, since carrying a 9.00 ERA into mid-May he’s thrown 40 innings with a 2.70 ERA and 37/17 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .364 slugging percentage. That’s not quite the peak Axford from his 2011 success, but it’s certainly good enough to help the Cardinals in a setup role and he’s averaged 95.2 miles per hour with his fastball this year.
Axford is also under team control through 2016, although with a $5 million salary for this season and more arbitration-fueled raises ahead the Cardinals might deem him too expensive to keep.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.