Cubs looking at Axford in search for potential closer

Cubs looking at Axford in search for potential closer
December 6, 2013, 4:00 pm
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The Cubs are looking for a closer and John Axford has already posted the personal classified ad on his Twitter account.

“MST (Man Seeking Team),” Axford wrote. “Tall athletic male with blue/green eyes and a love for film and mustaches seeking loving team for employment!”

There’s mutual interest between the Cubs and Axford, according to sources familiar with the situation, as Theo Epstein’s front office heads into next week’s winter meetings hoping to upgrade the bullpen and bench while adding another starting pitcher and outfielder.



Who’s the closer? Epstein said he probably won’t be able to answer that question until the offseason’s over. But Axford is one of the names the Cubs are considering for the ninth inning.

[RELATED -- Epstein: Renteria the 'clear' choice for Cubs]

Axford’s message has been retweeted or favorited more than 1,000 times, and he should be a popular guy at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Axford’s agent, Dan Horwits of Beverly Hills Sports Council, told that he had heard from 14 teams within two days after the St. Louis Cardinals non-tendered the 30-year-old reliever this week. Horwits also pointed out that Axford would remain under club control through the 2016 season.

[MORE: Theo looks for the next Ellsbury as Cubs wait to enter Tanaka sweepstakes]

Axford led the National League with saves 46 saves in 2011, helping the Milwaukee Brewers win 96 games and the division. He posted a 4.67 ERA in 2012, converting only 35 of 44 save chances, showing the volatility of closers.

Axford made $5 million last season and lost the closer’s job in Milwaukee. He bounced back after a stretch-run trade to St. Louis, putting up a 1.93 ERA in September and pitching in six playoff games as the Cardinals made it to the World Series.

The Cubs could give Axford a nice platform on the North Side.

[ALSO: Rick Renteria expects Cubs to show some fight]

“There are pitchers we have on the roster that we feel comfortable pitching that ninth inning,” Epstein said. “But at the same time, it’s a nice carrot to be able to dangle in free agency. Maybe we can’t match another team in some area, but here we can give them the responsibility of the ninth inning and the marketability of the ninth inning and see if we can use that to our advantage to build a better overall bullpen.”

The Cubs believe Pedro Strop has what it takes to close. They hope Kyuji Fujikawa will return from Tommy John surgery at some point next summer. They’ve received good reports on Arodys Vizcaino, who’s said to be hitting 98 mph in his long road back from Tommy John surgery. They non-tendered Daniel Bard with the idea he might stay in the organization on a non-roster deal. They’re adding Wesley Wright as another left-handed option to go along with James Russell.

Kevin Gregg is among the free agents out there with closing experience. Injury cases like Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey are also on the market. First-year manager Rick Renteria should have a deeper bullpen and won’t have to answer any questions about Carlos Marmol.

In their own way, the Cubs have posted a “Team Seeking Closer” classified ad.

“It’s always better to just find talent that hasn’t been given the opportunity yet in the ninth inning,” Epstein said, “and then give them that responsibility and let them add to their market value, whether it’s through trade or for a future contract. (But) just because a guy has saves on his resume and therefore might cost a little more, he still might be a nice option – as long as you’re making sure you’re paying for talent and not just for a stat that (Chicago baseball writer) Jerome Holtzman made up.”