The Orioles are likely to find their next closer on the free agent market. Executive vice president Dan Duquette has referred to the number of experienced late-inning specialists “on the board.”
One of those names dropped off it this morning. The Red Sox reportedly have agreed to terms with Edward Mujica on a two-year, $9.5 million contract, with the idea of having him serve as Koji Uehara’s set-up man for the 2014 season.
Not a bad price, especially if he closes in 2015.
The Orioles already had interest in former Brewers closer John Axford, and he figures to become a higher priority with Mujica no longer in play.
Axford, who turns 31 in April, is 22-19 with a 3.29 ERA, 106 saves and a 1.326 WHIP in five major league seasons. He’s walked 123 and struck out 329 in 273 2/3 innings.
Axford led the National League with 46 saves in 2011 while also posting a 1.95 ERA. He had 35 saves the following season, but he lost eight games and his ERA rose to 4.67.
The Brewers traded Axford to the Cardinals on Aug. 30 for a PTBN, and he allowed two earned runs and 11 hits in 10 1/3 innings.
Axford is a strikeout pitcher, averaging 10.8 per nine innings. He also averages four walks per nine innings, has never pitched in the American League and has never pitched at Camden Yards.
It’s not a perfect match.
Axford made $5 million this season. The Cardinals non-tendered him Monday and he could settle for a one-year deal as a reasonable cost for a team that, as you may have heard, doesn’t want to commit a large chunk of the budget to a closer.
The in-house candidates bring concerns because of their splits and lack of closing experience. Right-handers are batting .238 against Axford, and left-handers .225.
I can see a match.
The front office is confident that Showalter will “figure it out,” as he did in 2012 when naming Jim Johnson as the closer. Axford would reduce the risk.
Axford describes himself on Twitter as “A Mustache and Film Aficionado.” His nickname is “The Ax Man.” The promotional possibilities are endless.
Anything with Axel Foley would work. Heck, why not amp it up and have Axl Rose sing the anthem on opening day?
The Orioles also have discussed former Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan, who underwent ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow on May 16. Doesn’t sound like an immediate solution or nearly as much fun as Axford.
As for last night’s FOX Sports report that the Orioles are active in discussions with outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, and starter Ubaldo Jimenez, your excitement hinges on the definition of “active.” I’m sure Duquette has talked to their reps to gauge the market. But are the Orioles willing to fork over that much cash?
I wrote here why Cruz didn’t seem like a logical match, including his defensive shortcomings, the 50-game suspension and the Orioles’ desire to sign a left-handed designated hitter.
Jimenez could garner a four-year deal. The Orioles don’t do four-year deals with pitchers, so it would require a change in philosophy.
Choo would fill vacancies in left field and atop the order, and he’d give the Orioles a much-needed OBP guy. But he hit .215 against left-handers this year and agent Scott Boras is looking for a deal that would net Choo somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million.
That’s a lot of marbles.
Anyway, we’ll see.