John Axford was non-tendered by the Cardinals earlier this month, but the 30-year-old right-hander won’t have trouble finding a new place to pitch.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs, Orioles and Mariners have all expressed interest in Axford since the Cardinals let him go. And those teams may even offer him the opportunity to close.
Axford has registered a pedestrian 4.35 ERA in 134 1/3 innings since the start of the 2012 season, but he was one of the most dominant ninth inning men in baseball in 2011 and he still possesses a high-90s fastball. He posted a 1.74 ERA in 13 appearances this year for St. Louis after being acquired from the Brewers in a late-season trade, showing signs of a turnaround. The Cardinals non-tendered him because he was due a raise over the $5 million salary he made in 2013 — his first year of arbitration eligibility.
The Blue Jays announced on Friday that the club acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Dominic Leone and minor league pitcher Conner Greene.
Grichuk, 26, became expendable when the Cardinals acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. With veteran Dexter Fowler in right field and Tommy Pham — who finished 11th in NL MVP Award balloting last season — in center, Grichuk was effectively pushed to the bench. He will get a shot at regular playing time in an outfield corner with the Jays. Grichuk has had solid numbers since debuting in 2014, but he hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of his 2015 campaign. Last year, he hit .238/.285/.473 with 22 home runs and 59 RBI in 442 plate appearances.
Grichuk will earn $2.8 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration for two more years before becoming a free agent.
Leone, 26, posted an impressive 2.56 ERA with an 81/23 K/BB ratio across 70 1/3 innings last season. The right-hander will earn $1.085 million this season and then will become arbitration-eligible for the next three years. Leone certainly helps bolster the Cardinals’ bullpen and may work his way up to high-leverage innings behind closer Luke Gregerson.
Greene, 22, was selected by the Blue Jays in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. This past season, with Double-A New Hampshire, Greene compiled a 5.29 ERA with a 92/83 K/BB ratio in 132 2/3 innings. He throws hard, but control has been a big issue for the right-hander throughout his minor league career. The Cardinals may think they can help turn him around.