Ronald Belisario won’t be around anymore, so could John Axford be his replacement?

RonaldBelisarioCocaine

The non-tender deadline was yesterday, with Clayton Kershaw, A.J. Ellis, Kenley Jansen, and Ronald Belisario all needing decisions. The Dodgers decided to non-tender Beli, and we all assume the other three will be dealt with.

This was a surprise, not because Beli deserved to be kept around, but because the Dodgers actually parted ways with a familiar veteran face, which never happened pre-Stan Kasten era.

Looking at Beli’s case earlier, I said this:

Ronald Belisario – $2.3 Million

This is arguably the first real tough decision for the team. Here is Beli’s history with the Dodgers: 2.05 ERA in 2009, 5.04 ERA in 2010, missed 2011 with visa issues, 2.54 ERA in 2012, and 3.97 ERA in 2013. Worse yet, his FIPs show the same trend (3.51/4.31/3.09/3.64), so it’s hard to get a read on what his true talent level is.

I doubt they get rid of him, if for no other reason than familiarity, but if they do choose not to bring him back, I think that reflects a lot on his collapse down the stretch and the health of his right arm.

It still applies, as the team simply feels they can’t trust him anymore. Sure, they could still re-sign him on a cheaper deal, but I doubt the decision was based on money. Rather, they believe they can find better options.

For example, Joe Smith said the Dodgers made an offer to him.

And they were recently in the hunt for Jim Johnson via trade, so the team is clearly looking for a veteran closer/setup man type to shore up the pen.

JohnAxford

Enter John Axford, who was non-tendered by the Cardinals yesterday, probably because he was slated to make close to ~$6 million in arbitration.

After two years of being a very effective reliever in 2010 and 2011, Axford had a down year in 2012 (4.67 ERA). He started 2013 by posting a 24.30 ERA in his first four appearances, and subsequently lost his closing job with the Brewers. That seems to be all that most remember, but following that stretch, he posted a 2.92 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 61.2 innings. That includes a 1.74 ERA and 2.08 FIP with the Cardinals down the stretch.

Axford’s still a bit of a risk since he’s only months removed from a disastrous stretch of pitching, but if there wasn’t any risk, he wouldn’t be available. And at a reasonable deal, Axford fits both the role and the makeup of the position the Dodgers are currently trying to fill. If the team can’t get Brian Wilson back, and it doesn’t seem like they can (or even if they do), then Axford may be the best remaining option to shore up the pen.

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