Axford avoids arbitration, gets big raise

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers and closer John Axford have agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract, avoiding salary arbitration. 
Axford’s agents at the Beverly Hills Sports Council said via Twitter that the right-hander will have incentives in his contract, as well.
The $5 million is a significant pay raise from the $525,000 Axford made last season.
“BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! So pumped right now! #ILoveMilwaukee,” Axford tweeted.
Signed by the Brewers as a minor league free agent on Nov. 8, 2008, Axford, who will be 30 years old on Opening Day, was first called up for a short stint in 2009 but took over for Trevor Hoffman as the team’s full-time closer in May 2010.
Axford saved 24 games in 2010 and posted a 2.48 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 58 innings. In 2011, he set a franchise record with 46 saves and blew only two save chances. He had a 1.95 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 73 2/3 innings, helping the Brewers to the National League Championship Series. His dominance continued into the playoffs as he notched three saves with a 1.29 ERA.
Both of Axford’s blown saves in 2011 came in the first two weeks of the season, so his consecutive saves streak reached 49, the fourth-longest in baseball history, by May 2012.
Struggles hit Axford in June and July of last season, as command and location issues forced Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to remove him as closer on July 17. Axford had a 9.00 ERA in June, and Roenicke thought it would be best to give Francisco Rodriguez a shot in the ninth inning.
As Rodriguez and others continued to rack up blown saves, Axford approached Roenicke in mid-August asking for his job back. Roenicke obliged, and  Axford pitched much better in September and October, picking up 13 saves with a 2.93 ERA in 17 games. 
The Brewers have also signed their other two arbitration-eligible players: According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, starting pitcher Marco Estrada agreed to a one-year, $1.955 million deal, and reliever Burke Badenhop signed for $1.55 million.
Estrada, 29, made $486,000 last season but had a very good season in 2012, making 29 appearances and 23 starts for the Brewers with a 3.64 ERA. Acquired from Tampa Bay this offseason, Badenhop made $1.05 million last season with the Rays.

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