The Blue Jays have signed right-handed reliever John Axford to a minor-league deal with an invitation to major-league spring training, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported on Thursday night. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi was the first to report that Axford was receiving a minor-league contract.
The 34-year-old Axford, known by many fans across the league for his annual Oscar predictions, will have an opportunity to play in his home country of Canada for the first time. He’s had a very up-and-down career, playing for six different teams and serving as a closer at points for the Brewers, Indians, and Rockies while posting a 3.71 ERA and 1.42 WHIP through 493 career appearances. Though he signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Athletics prior to the 2016 season, Axford struggled to the point where he was designated for assignment by the A’s last July after posting a 6.43 ERA and 2.10 WHIP with 21 strikeouts and 17 walks over 21 innings. For what it’s worth, however, Axford dealt with a shoulder strain early in the season and may have been affected by it throughout the year, so perhaps he’ll bounce back after having an offseason to recover.
Axford will be battling for a spot in a Blue Jays bullpen that has already been weakened by the trade of Dominic Leone and may again be without Joe Biagini if he ends up filling Toronto’s fifth starter spot. Axford joins a growing collection of veteran non-roster relievers battling for spots — a group that already includes Al Alburquerque and Jake Petricka.