Axford’s last truly great season was in 2011, but his 2018 season was not as bad as it appeared on the surface. Axford split last season between the Blue Jays and Dodgers, tossing 54.2 innings with a 5.27 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP and an 8.89 K/9.
Advanced metrics say Axford wasn’t as bad as the ERA indicates, giving him a 3.98 FIP, a 3.86 xFIP and a 3.67 SIERA. His 8.89 K/9 is slightly lower than what he normally produces, but his 3.62 BB/9 is the best mark he has posted since 2011. That’s right, Axford had the best command he’s had in six years in 2018.
Axford is 36 now, and it’s reasonable to assume there isn’t too much left in the tank. However, he will almost certainly be a bargain this offseason, as teams will be scared away by his age and ERA.
If the Detroit Tigers can snag him on a minor league deal with incentives, they can gamble on his stats lining up more closely with the advanced metrics from last season. And if that’s the case, the Tigers will have stolen a high-3.00 ERA, 9.00 K/9 bullpen arm for next to nothing.
Plus, he would make a very solid trade candidate if he can pitch at that level. If he doesn’t, well the Tigers can cut bait and give one of their minor league relievers an option.
The bullpen market is quite a robust one this offseason, and the Detroit Tigers would be wise to take advantage of a buyers market and snatch someone up for 2019.