Cardinals unlikely to tender a contract to John Axford

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Cardinals reliever John Axford is eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career and he is looking at a raise over 2013’s $5 million salary, despite posting a combined 4.35 ERA over the past two seasons. As salaries cannot be cut by more than 20 percent, he will make at least $4 million if he goes through the arbitration process. The Cardinals have more than enough quality relief pitching to boot. As a result, the 30-year-old is likely to be non-tendered prior to tomorrow’s deadline, per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.

Axford will still draw interest from other teams — including the Cardinals — after he is non-tendered. In fact, Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors even suggests the possibility that Axford could still wind up with a two-year deal, which is quite rare among non-tendered players.

The Brewers traded Axford to the Cardinals just before the waiver deadline in August for a player to be named later (Michael Blazek). In 10.1 innings with the Cardinals, the right-hander struck out 11 and walked three while posting a 1.74 ERA, pitching mostly in the seventh and eighth innings. In the post-season, Axford made two appearances in each of the Cardinals’ three series, pitching a total of 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts, four walks, and a 1.59 ERA.

Rays acquire RHP Drew Smith from Tigers

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The Rays acquired minor league reliever Drew Smith from the Tigers on Friday, per a team announcement. The move will close the loop on the trade the two teams began in January for backup outfielder Mikie Mahtook.

Smith, 23, pitched his first full season in Single-A West Michigan in 2016, turning in a 2.96 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 11.5 SO/9 in 48 2/3 innings. The right-hander is still several levels away from making any impact on the Rays’ major league roster, but appears to be progressing steadily in two seasons of pro ball and has delivered two runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts in his first 11 2/3 innings at High-A Lakeland this season. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that he’ll be reassigned to the Rays’ High-A Charlotte this week.

Yankees activate Didi Gregorius from the disabled list

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The Yankees have activated shortstop Didi Gregorius from the 10-day disabled list, the club announced on Friday. Infielder Pete Kozma was designated for assignment to clear roster space.

Gregorius, 27, suffered a strained right shoulder while playing in the World Baseball Classic last month. He’s in Friday’s starting lineup, batting sixth against the Orioles.

Last season, Gregorius hit .276/.304/.447 with 20 home runs and 70 RBI in 597 plate appearances.