Pirates claim John Axford off waivers from Indians

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Looking to add more bullpen help after the Jason Grilli-for-Ernesto Frieri swap worked out so horribly the Pirates have acquired right-hander John Axford from the Indians, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Axford signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal to be the Indians’ closer, but instead was quickly stripped of ninth-inning duties and has spent most of the season in a setup role without being particularly effective with a 3.91 ERA and 30 walks in 44 innings.

Axford still throws really hard and still misses plenty of bats with 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings, but between his poor control and problems keeping the ball in the ballpark he’s posted a combined 4.25 ERA in 200 appearances since 2012.

In what proved to be his final Indians appearance Axford walked three batters and allowed four runs while recording two outs last week, which inflated his ERA from 3.14 to 3.91. He’ll work in a setup role in front of closer Mark Melancon.

UPDATE: It’s a straight-up waiver claim, so the Indians basically said “OK, take him” to the Pirates, who’re now responsible for the $1.1 million left on Axford’s deal.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.