Brewers trade John Axford to division rival Cardinals

Milwaukee traded former closer John Axford to St. Louis for a player to be named later.

The up-and-down journey of John Axford's career with the Milwaukee Brewers has come to an end. Milwaukee traded its former closer to St. Louis on Friday in exchange for a player to be named later. 

Axford, 30, is 6-7 with a 4.45 ERA this season in 62 appearances out of the bullpen for the Brewers. Much like last season, Axford has seen periods of dominance mixed with extended stretches of struggle. 

After allowing nine earned runs in his first 3 1/3 innings this season, Axford settled down and appeared to have regained his 2011 form. Axford tossed 23 straight scoreless outings and didn't allow an earned run in June. 

But it's been a struggle ever since. Axford's ERA in July and August is 5.31, leaving Brewers manager Ron Roenicke searching for how to use the team's former closer. Axford leaves the Brewers second all-time in franchise history with 106 saves, trailing Dan Plesac's 133. 

To fill Axford's roster spot, the Brewers recalled right-hander Alfredo Figaro from Triple-A Nashville. 

"John has been a big contributor to the Brewers, and we do not go to the playoffs in 2011 without his outstanding performance," Brewers general manger Doug Melvin said. "He and his wife, Nicole, will also be missed as contributors to the Milwaukee community."

Signed as a minor-league free agent in March of 2008, Axford debuted with the Brewers in September of 2009. He started 2010 in Triple-A, but was promoted to the big leagues in May and eventually replaced Trevor Hoffman as Milwaukee's closer.

Axford finished 2010 with 24 saves and a 2.48 ERA in 50 appearances, but became a dominant closer the following season. Helping the Brewers to a division title and a trip to the National League Championship Series, Axford set the franchise's single-season saves record with 46 and had a 1.95 ERA in 74 games out of the bullpen.

In the 2011 postseason, Axford recorded three saves but blew a save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against Arizona. The Brewers would eventually win the game on a Nyjer Morgan walkoff single and Axford got the win. 

Unable to repeat the consistency of 2011, Axford ran into a disastrous stretch in June of 2012. He had a 9.00 ERA and three blown saves in the month, eventually surrendering his job as closer. 

Because Milwaukee's bullpen performed poorly as a whole, Axford eventually became the closer again and found success. He saved 13 games and had a 2.93 ERA in 17 appearances in September and October last season, leading to the Brewers bringing him back as closer for 2013.

That was short lived, as Axford was hit hard early in the season and lost his job in early April without recording a save.  

Axford was making $5 million this season in his first year of arbitration. His minimum salary for 2014 will be $4 million and was likely to be non-tendered by the Brewers in the offseason. 

The deal marks the first between the two division rivals since the Brewers sent reliever Mike DeJean to St. Louis in exchange for players to be named later in August of 2003. Mike Crudale and John Novinsky were the players to be named later, as Crudale pitched in nine games for the Brewers in 2003. 

Prior to the DeJean trade, the Brewers and Cardinals struck another August deal in 2002. Milwaukee sent right-hander Jamey Wright and cash to St. Louis for a player to be named later (Mike Matthews) and minor-league outfielder Chris Morris.

Two other deals have occurred between the two teams since Milwaukee moved to the National League for the 1998 season. In January of 1998, the Brewers received minor-league infielder Keith Johns from St. Louis in a three-team trade for a player to be named later (Scotty Pace). 

The biggest deal came in December of 1999 when the Brewers traded second baseman Fernando Vina to the Cardinals for right-hander Juan Acevedo and players to be named later. Eliezer Alfonzo and Matt Parker were eventually shipped to Milwaukee in June of 2000 to complete the deal. 

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