Dec 16 2013, 11:52pm CST | by Poch de la Rosa
"The Indians have been searching for an answer for their closer role since the final week of the regular season. Cleveland is taking a chance on John Axford with the hope that he can rekindle his career as one of the game's elite stoppers.
"According to multiple sources, the Indians have reached an agreement with free-agent Axford on a one-year contract worth $4.5 million for the 2014 season, pending the completion of a physical on Wednesday. The pact would include another $1.75 million in incentives based on games finished.
"The Indians have not made any official comment about the deal."
Bastian adds the Indians had been in discussions with Axford as well as other late-inning pitchers such as Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney and Edward Mujica during last week's Winter Meetings. These talks were spurred by the release of former closer Chris Perez, who was released by the team on Oct. 31.
Prior to the Axford acquisition, Cleveland was thinking about putting either Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw in the role vacated by Perez. However, manager Terry Francona made it clear he prefers to have both Allen and Shaw in set-up roles, per Bastian.
Other teams, including the Chicago Cubs, were reprtedly interested in the 30-year-old Axford's services, according to ESPN.
Axford spent four-and-a-half seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers but was eventually dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals last season. In 62 appearances for the Brewers, he had six blown saves, writes Tom Russo of The Associated Press.
His best season came in 2011, when he posted a 2-2 record with a 1.95 ERA and 46 saves.
The Axford deal coincides with the departure of Matt Albers, who signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Houston Astros. Albers, Perez and Joe Smith were part of a Cleveland bullpen that "went 33-16 with a 3.62 ERA and 38 saves. They ranked eighth in ERA in the 15-team American League," as pointed out by Paul Hoynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
The 6'5", 220-lb. Axford, a native of Simcoe, Canada, has a career record of 22-19 with 106 saves and an ERA of 3.29 in 273.2 innings, per ESPN stats.
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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