MILWAUKEE — Turns out David Stearns wasn't quite done wheeling and dealing after all.
The Milwaukee Brewers' president of baseball operations pulled off another trade Monday morning, acquiring right-handed reliever and club single-season saves leader John Axford from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for $1.
Axford, 38, spent his first five big-league seasons with the Brewers, going 21-19 with a 3.35 ERA and 106 saves in 268 appearances. He set a franchise record in 2011 when he saved 46 games en route to Milwaukee's first division title since 1982.
Axford last pitched in the majors in 2018 when he posted a combined 5.27 ERA for the Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. He began the 2021 season working as an analyst on Blue Jays television broadcasts and later pitched for Team Canada in Olympic qualifying competition, which led to a minor league contract with the Blue Jays.
He appeared in nine games for Class AAA Buffalo, posting an 0.84 ERA and two saves while striking out 14 over 10⅔ innings.
That drew the interest of Stearns, especially after the Brewers' bullpen was depleted by COVID-19 infections.
Because Axford was on a minor league contract, Stearns was able to complete a deal for him after MLB's annual trade deadline having passed. Axford will be in uniform tonight when the Brewers open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at American Family Field.
The trade is Stearns' ninth involving players on the major league roster this season. Here's a look at the previous deals:
April 6: RHP Chad Sobotka, Patrick Weigel (from Atlanta for SS Orlando Arcia)
The season was barely a week old when Stearns pulled off his first deal, shipping former top prospect Arcia for bullpen depth, allowing Luis Urias to become Milwaukee's starting shortstop.
Sobotka has yet to pitch for the Brewers and is no longer on the 40-man roster. Weigel appeared in three games, posting a 4.50 ERA and 2.00 WHIP, before he was designated for assignment over the weekend.
Arcia was sent back down to the Braves' Class AAA team over the weekend. He's appeared in only 17 games for Atlanta this season, batting .204 with two home runs, nine RBIs and a .611 OPS.
May 21: SS Willy Adames, RHP Trevor Richards (from Tampa Bay or RHPs J.P. Feyereisen, Drew Rasmussen)
Six weeks after handing Urias the starting job, Stearns added another shortstop in Adames. The move raised eyebrows at the time but has turned out to be perhaps the most significant deal of Stearns' tenure.
Since joining the Brewers, Adames is batting .294/.381/.544 with 13 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .925 OPS.
And the Brewers are 42-20 since he's come aboard.
Feyereisen continues to produce with Tampa. He's appeared in 21 games for the Rays. Posting a 2.42 ERA with three saves while Rasmussen has a 4.12 ERA in 11 outings.
June 12: RHP Hunter Strickland (from LA Angels for cash considerations)
Strickland had already played for two teams this season when Milwaukee acquired him. He got off to a good start with Tampa (1.69 ERA, 13 games) but was knocked around a bit in nine outings with the Angels (9.94 ERA).
With the Brewers, he's been lights-out, having compiled a 1.76 ERA in 14 outings before landing in the COVID-19 protocol over the weekend.
June 25: RHP Jandal Gustave (with OF Troy Stokes, Jr. from Pirates for C Samuel Escudero)
Gustave was acquired to provide depth as injuries and innings piled up for Milwaukee's relief corps but he's used the opportunity to establish himself as an important part of that group by not allowing a run in six appearances before he, too, was sidelined by COVID-19 last weekend,
July 6: INF Rowdy Tellez (from Toronto for Richards and RHP Bowden Francis)
Daniel Vogelbach and Travis Shaw were out with injuries and Keston Hiura was still mired in a slump when Stearns sent Richards to Toronto for the left-handed-hitting Tellez.
Like Adames, Tellez has thrived with the change in scenery. He was batting .209 with four home runs and eight RBIs for Toronto at the time of the trade but has hit .326 with four homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.038 OPS since joining the Brewers.
July 28: INF Eduardo Escobar (from Arizona for OF Cooper Hummel and INF Alberto Ciprian); LHP Daniel Norris (from Detroit for RHP Reese Olson); RHP John Curtiss (from Miami for C Payton Henry)
It's still too early to evaluate Milwaukee's deadline-day acquisitions, but all three made their first appearances over the weekend in Atlanta.
Escobar provided an early highlight, belting his 23rd home run of the season Friday night, while Norris struck out a batter and didn't allow a run in two-thirds of an inning Saturday.
Curtiss' debut was a little more rocky: He gave up five runs, including a grand slam over two-thirds of an inning Saturday, but bounced back a day later with one-third of an inning during Milwaukee's 2-1 victory in the series finale.