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Cardinals unlikely to tender a contract to John Axford

Dec 1, 2013, 11:15 PM EST

World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Four Getty Images

Cardinals reliever John Axford is eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career and he is looking at a raise over 2013’s $5 million salary, despite posting a combined 4.35 ERA over the past two seasons. As salaries cannot be cut by more than 20 percent, he will make at least $4 million if he goes through the arbitration process. The Cardinals have more than enough quality relief pitching to boot. As a result, the 30-year-old is likely to be non-tendered prior to tomorrow’s deadline, per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.

Axford will still draw interest from other teams — including the Cardinals — after he is non-tendered. In fact, Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors even suggests the possibility that Axford could still wind up with a two-year deal, which is quite rare among non-tendered players.

The Brewers traded Axford to the Cardinals just before the waiver deadline in August for a player to be named later (Michael Blazek). In 10.1 innings with the Cardinals, the right-hander struck out 11 and walked three while posting a 1.74 ERA, pitching mostly in the seventh and eighth innings. In the post-season, Axford made two appearances in each of the Cardinals’ three series, pitching a total of 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts, four walks, and a 1.59 ERA.

  1. sfm073 - Dec 2, 2013 at 3:33 AM

    Wish the cardinals would resign him and force one of the young kids beat him out. Of course they would have to overpay to do so.

  2. gibbyfan - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    I was not aware that arbitration rules had a limit on the downside. Is there an upside max as well?

    • paperlions - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      Arbitration is to determine how large a raise the player will receive based on production and service time, not if he’ll get a raise, which is why players are non-tendered. There is not a fixed ceiling. The team and agent each submit a number and the arbiter picks one of the two if it makes it to arbitration. Usually, the team and player will agree to a deal without going through the process, with the mid-way point between the two submitted numbers most often being the agreed upon amount.

      If Axford is non-tendered, he very well could get a multi-year deal with a higher AAV than he’d get in arbitration because some teams are willing to pay quite a bit for relief pitching. It seems highly unlikely that the Cardinals will sign him to a multi-year deal, and fairly unlikely that they’ll tender him a contract because the need and value just aren’t there for them.

  3. spudchukar - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    The idea that the Cards are contemplating “saving” cash is risible. They are flush, with almost no new expenses on the horizon. Unless they are considering a major FA signing still, a notion that isn’t supported by need, then the paltry sum Axford’s increase would incur is unsubstantial.

    Perhaps they are working out a 2 year deal that would please him since he will be arbitration eligible again next year. Even though the Cards have a plethora of young arms, they are losing Mujica, and Motte’s effectiveness on return from TJ is a question mark, Axford’s signing presents them a luxury that they can certainly afford.

    • paperlions - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      At one point I was hopeful that a reasonable 2-year deal could be reached, but in a recent interview Mo stated that there had been no negotiations or contact between the two parties…..which wouldn’t keep them from tendering a contract and working out a 2-year deal before the hearing. I do think they are considering ways to transfer future expenses to this year (note, the front-loaded nature of the Peralta contract)….I think they see the future coming, with all of their young players being due raises or extensions at the same time.

    • gibbyfan - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      Might give them some leverage to make a trade too. I’m not sure what their payroll is right now but the Wainright contract kicks in this year and there was some talk about locking up Carpenter sooner rather than later………..Cahs reserves can dwindle quickly. With what the team looks like right now, no pressing needs, it might be prudent to keep it for a rainy day or a great opportunity.

    • spudchukar - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      After the departure of Carpenter, Furcal, Beltran, and Westbrook the Cards roster cost $72 mil. When Freese was moved it dropped to $68 mil. Add Bourjos’ $1.1 mil, and Peralta’s front-loaded $15 mil and the total jumps to $84 mil, with slight increases possible to Jay, and Motte (I think), who neither carry much leverage into arbitration.

      This is a ridiculously low total by today’s standards, particularly glaring when each team receives another $25 mil for TV rights updates. Sure in the not too distant future they will have to pay for the young arms, and talent, but who doesn’t? An attempt to lock up Carpenter would be wise, but he would be better suited to cash in if he can replicate his 2013 season, which will be tough.

      Certainly the Cards situation is unique. Most veterans are locked up to reasonable deals, but by the time those contracts are up the kids will replace them. Any talk of “responsible spending” and “saving for the future” is just corporate B.S.

      The fans deserve more. The decision to retain or let Axford go isn’t critical, but to suggest he is too expensive for 2014 is folly. It shouldn’t be about the money.

      • gibbyfan - Dec 2, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        You may call it corporate BS Spud and say it’s not about the money but no matter how you cut it it’s a business…………and a competitive one at that.In my view the cards have done a great job in managing as a business, especially in light of the fact they are not one of the super rich revenue generators like the LA and other teams..no small thing..
        BTW–did you include Waino’s increase in your numbers?

      • spudchukar - Dec 2, 2013 at 12:22 PM

        The Cards have been both fortunate and wise. But none of that precludes the fact that they are doing it on the cheap. Their frugality shouldn’t be ignored. Never have I suggested they should emulate the TV contract rich, Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers, nor the spendy Angels, Giants, or Tigers.

        But, the Cards are not a Third World Franchise. One could expect them to spend somewhere in the upper third of the middle third in team spending, and currently they are no where near that. A lot of that is due to prudence, forethought, and wisdom. Some remains tight-fisted. Asking them to spend another 10-15 mil in 2014 is hardly breaking the bank.

        Maybe, there aren’t any moves that make much sense and they have few holes to fill. I just don’t need to hear minor moves cannot be consummated due to fiscal restraint. That is the B.S. I am referring to. And the excuse that soon they will have to pay the succeeding youngsters, rings hollow.

        And no I did not include Wainwright’s 2014 increase of $7.5 mil. His deal is also front loaded, in essence, as it does not increase ever, and its addition is still below the norm for annual team increases.

      • paperlions - Dec 2, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        Last year the Cardinals were 10th or 11th in MLB salary, depending on source. They’ve also spent a lot of money on international development recently with new academies as Jocketty had all but shut down all of their international academies before. They also have one of the worst TV deals in the league and are paying down the debt on their stadium since they didn’t get one just given to them. I am not saying they can’t spend more money, just that…there are plenty of ways to be spending money that isn’t just MLB salary.

      • gibbyfan - Dec 2, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        Paper—That’s exactly my point. Given the competition and what they have been able to accomplish, I think the Cards deserve major Kudos and need to be particularly adept at allocating very precious resources. Unlike a few teams that seem to have a bottomless pit of money and/or public support.
        I’m not sure how the cards got such a poor cable deal but I sure hope it can be rectified next time around, even though I think that’s a good 5-6 years off (more eason for a conservative financial posture). Also, I am generally opposed to public assistance for billionaires, but if there ever was a city that I thought would contribute to a team, surely it would be St. Louis. But, it is what it is and to me it makes them all the more remarkable.

      • spudchukar - Dec 2, 2013 at 3:29 PM

        When they are 10th-11th the other expenditures and poor TV receipts are viable excuses. But they will fall to the bottom third, and possibly bottom fourth or fifth come 2014.

      • cardsman - Dec 3, 2013 at 8:22 AM

        Looks like the cards are going to field a very good, young, team. Rather than sign and/or trade for at least 1 big contract/big bat, which would be much safer assurance of a great team, They are going to save 40 to 50 mil., and go with ‘promising’, young unproven talent at 2nd and 1st. this is post Larussa reasoning. Very risky. If Yadi and Carpenter dont have great years and the ‘kids’, dont come up big, we could have trouble scoring runs. Certainly would have felt better with another big ‘established’ star. Hope pocketing all that extra money doesnt bite us in the ass…

  4. metalhead65 - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    sorry buddy but you need to do some ped’s first then have a career year before the cards will give you a bug contract. apparently that is the cardinal way now,

    • spudchukar - Dec 2, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      Or you could try the “Reds Way” (just in case you were unaware, if you depress the “Shift” button prior to typing, it will automatically capitalize the letter), and offer contracts to not only Cards’ rejects but one personality challenged player after another.

      Looks like no Choo or Arroyo. The third place 2013 Reds look like they are in decline. But of course you can always brag that your Cincinnati underachievers are better than the Cubs.

  5. spudchukar - Dec 2, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Perhaps the Cards are considering spending the cash elsewhere. That would make the non-tendering more palatable. If they don’t think Axford is worth 5 mil, then OK, find somebody to spend it on, but I don’t want guys like Keith Butler, Eric Fornataro or Jorge Rondon being considered as alternatives.

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