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.

It sounds like a Manny Machado deal is all but done

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It occurs to me that maybe one of the reasons for all of the incremental rumors about Manny Machado that I mentioned earlier this morning is that he’s . . . already traded? Basically anyway?

I say this based on the latest report from Olney in which he says that the Orioles have the structure of a Manny Machado trade in place and are “going through the medicals/paperwork portion of the transaction.” He quickly adds that the Dodgers “have been very invested” in pursuing Machado but that “a deal is not finished yet.”

Here’s the actual tweet, since we’re parsing words:

As someone who has read trade rumors like it’s his job for the past decade, mostly because it is his job, here’s what Olney’s tweet says to me (and yes, this is all speculation, but it makes a ton of sense):

1. The Orioles have agreed to trade Machado, probably to the Dodgers since they’re mentioned first, but no one has given Buster the OK to actually report it as a done deal. The “not finished yet” is protection, showing that he didn’t spill the beans, but the mention of the Dodgers is a wink to folks to let them know that, yep, he knows what time it is;

2. They probably haven’t given him the OK to report it as a done deal because they want Machado to appear in the All-Star Game as an Oriole;

3. The second he’s removed from the game tonight, the news goes public. Or, if MLB is putting its finger on the scale and doesn’t want to distract from the All-Star Game, the second the game is over. Personally, though, if I was MLB I’d let the news come out during the game because people will stay tuned to wait for it.

Anyway, like I said, speculation. But I feel like it’s right.