The Pirates have claimed reliever John Axford from Cleveland, Ken Rosenthal reports. Axford makes about $1.1 million the rest of the season. To make room on the 40-man, the Pirates have announced that they've designated Matt Hague for assignment. To clear space on the active roster, Stolmy Pimentel will be placed on the DL with "lower body soreness," whatever that is or isn't.
Axford has a great fastball, and there have been times when I would have been very much in favor of acquiring him. This might work. But right now, I'm not sure I understand this.
Axford has walked 30 batters in 43.2 innings this season. This isn't even a case like Ernesto Frieri's, where he was putting up good peripheral numbers but had bad ERAs. The reasons for Axford's struggles this season are pretty obvious -- he's battling the same control issues he's had throughout much of his career. Maybe he's one mechanical tweak from being successful, but the Pirates couldn't fix Frieri fast enough for him to help them, and I'm not sure how confident we should be that they can fix Axford.
Maybe part of the thinking is that Axford has improved his control issues throughout the season (walking 10 batters in 11.2 innings in May, for example, but walking just two in nine innings in July). But he walked three batters and got just two outs in his very last outing, and the broader point is that Axford has enough of a track record that he probably is what he is. The Cardinals got good results from him down the stretch last season, but I'm not sure we should count on that again. And what the Pirates' bullpen needs right now isn't an interesting, high-upside arm; it has several of those. It needs someone who provides a better chance of being steady. We'll see; Axford could turn out to be the kind of upside gamble that goes right. But I'm not sure this is the move I would have made.
Some now-irrelevant handwringing about the possibility of Stolmy Pimentel being designated for assignment, which he wasn't:
UPDATE: David Manel reports that the Pirates seem to have removed Stolmy Pimentel from their roster, which suggests that they're designating him for assignment. (That's not official yet, and it's possible they're going to place him on the DL or something instead.) If they are designating him, I don't like this at all. Pimentel is likely to be claimed on waivers. Going through the season as a contending team with someone like Pimentel on your roster is already a debatable move, but then to remove him from the roster with six weeks in the season only to add someone who's just as much of a project is downright weird. Maybe the Pirates' coaches can do some miracle-working here, and if so, I'll be prepared to take all this back, but I don't understand the point of potentially giving up on five years of control for Pimentel just to have John Axford for what's likely to be six weeks. (Axford is eligible for arbitration this offseason, but I doubt the Pirates will take him.)
UPDATE 2, 6:04pm: The Pirates have DFA'ed Matt Hague, not Pimentel, fortunately. It sounds like the move involving Pimentel will be to place him on the DL with ... something. That would clear space for Axford on the active roster. Anyway, Hague being DFA'ed is nothing to lose sleep over.