Two trades were completed Friday morning, beating the Sept. 1 deadline for playoff eligibility. The Cleveland Indians, hoping slugger Jason Kubel regains his power stroke in the season's final month, acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The St. Louis Cardinals bet on right-hander John Axford, acquiring the Milwaukee Brewers' former closer.
Kubel, who hit 30 home runs and 30 doubles a season ago with Arizona, has struggled with leg injuries and decreased playing time in 2013, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Kubel, 31, batted .220/.288/.324 with five homers in 267 plate appearances. He also had a string of above-average performances with the Twins from 2007-2011. He will wear No. 12 for the Indians, they report.
Axford saved 105 games from 2010 to 2012, but lost his job to Jim Henderson early this season and didn't get it back when Henderson gave it up (for a while) to Francisco Rodriguez. Still, Axford put together a long streak of success in middle relief for the Brewers, compiling a 0.34 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 11 walks in 26 2/3 innings from late May to late July. He has struggled since then. It's all small sample sizes. Perhaps the Cardinals will get a nice closing push from him, like they did in previous seasons from other late acquisitions by GM John Mozeliak. St Louis leads the NL Central by one game over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Brewers' GM Doug Melvin said a nice thing about Axford in a statement:
“John has been a big contributor to the Brewers, and we do not go to the playoffs in 2011 without his outstanding performance. He and his wife, Nicole, will also be missed as contributors to the Milwaukee community.”
Axford, with his award-winning Buffalo Bill/handlebar mustache look and outgoing personality on Twitter and in person, was a fan favorite in Milwaukee. Of course, love can be fickle, and when Axford struggled, Twitter wasn't as much fun of a place to engage fans.
Kubel is quiet by comparison, but by all accounts a good guy in the clubhouse, for what it's worth. It would be worth a lot more if he also hit some home runs.
The Indians came into Friday 6 1/2 behind the Tigers in the AL Central and four games back in the wild card race. But they have a .650 OPS as a team in August, and have lost several players to injury, most recently Ryan Raburn. The Indians have used Jason Giambi, a player with a similar skill set to that of Kubel, as a left-handed hitting DH. But at age 42, Giambi is batting .185/.278/.383 with eight homers in 187 plate appearances. Kubel also could be auditioning for a job in 2014.
In case you were wondering, and this comes up every year, Major League Baseball teams still can make trades after Aug. 1, as long as the players involved either go unclaimed on waivers or a deal is worked out with a team that does make a claim. And, by making these deals before Sept. 1, Kubel and Axford are playoff-eligible for their new clubs.