The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired John Axford, per Ken Rosenthal.
Source: #Pirates acquire John Axford.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 14, 2014
Axford has had some good surface numbers with the Cleveland Indians this year, posting a 3.92 ERA in 43.2 innings. He also has a 10.5 K/9 rate. However, he’s posting a 6.2 BB/9 rate and was demoted from the closer’s role earlier in the season. He’s making $4.5 M this year, and is under team control through the 2016 season.
This looks like another Ernesto Frieri situation where the Pirates are trying to turn things around with a formerly established relief pitcher. In this case, there’s less risk, since Axford isn’t doing horrible. Even with the walks, he has a 3.98 xFIP. That’s better than what some of the guys have in the Pirates bullpen. If they can find a way to drop the walk rate, he could be the relief pitcher they need in the 7th inning. Last year Axford struggled with the Brewers, only for the Cardinals to acquire him and see him turn into a dominant reliever down the stretch. The Pirates can only hope for the same result.
No word yet on who the Pirates are giving up in the deal.
UPDATE 4:29 PM: It’s a waiver claim, according to Buster Olney. So no players are given up in return.
The Pirates got John Axford in a straight waiver claim from Cleveland. Owed about $1.1 million for the rest of the year.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 14, 2014
UPDATE 4:43 PM: Rob Biertempfel says that Stolmy Pimentel is the corresponding move.
Pimentel is #pirates coresponding move.
— Rob Biertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) August 14, 2014
David Manel tweeted at the same time that Pimentel just left Hurdle’s office, so this appears to be informed speculation.
Pimentel just left Hurdle's office.
— David Manel (@DavidManel) August 14, 2014
If that’s the case, then this would cover the 25-man and 40-man spots needed for Axford.
UPDATE 5:02 PM: It’s still unconfirmed that Pimentel is the corresponding move. If that is the case, then it’s not a good swap. Axford’s addition as a waiver claim isn’t bad. Minus the $1.1 M he is owed, it’s basically a free shot at a guy who has shown at times that he can be a good reliever in the majors. Axford has struggled this year, and is a project. He could quickly turn things around, but there’s no guarantees. He’s less of a project than Frieri, but still a project.
Pimentel is also a project. He’s got a lot of upside, but is out of options. He hasn’t had the best numbers this year, but also really hasn’t been given much of a shot. The Pirates have used him like a Rule 5 guy for most of the year, getting him in games about once a week. Lately he has been getting more regular appearances, and by “regular appearances” I mean he’s only had three days in between appearances. It’s hard for a reliever to establish any kind of a rhythm with that going on. It’s even more difficult for a guy like Pimentel, who has been a starter for most of his minor league career.
If this was a debate between an established reliever and a project, it would be one thing. Both of these guys are projects, neither provide guarantees, and there’s more long-term benefit with giving Pimentel a real shot than there is with giving Axford a chance. It wouldn’t make sense at all if the Pirates don’t give Pimentel a real chance, only to give real shots to guys like Axford and Frieri.
That said, right now there is nothing confirmed on Pimentel. Right now all we know is that he was in Clint Hurdle’s office, and it’s assumed that he’s the corresponding move.
UPDATE 6:12 PM: Matt Hague was DFAd for Axford. Pimentel is expected to go on the DL tomorrow to create a 25-man spot.