John Axford signing with Indians

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland wanted a reliever with closer experience. They seem to have gotten it with John Axford.

The Cleveland Indians will sign former Brewers' closer John Axford to a one-year deal, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

The terms of the contract are unknown, but a short-term deal is likely since Axford is still arbitration eligible for two more seasons. The Indians will be able to retain him through the arbitration process through 2017.

Last season, Cleveland used the recently released Chris Perez in the ninth inning to mixed results. He saved 25 games for the club, and had been cemented into the closer role for the better part of the last four seasons, but he struggled at times in 2013, putting up a 4.33 ERA in 53 innings. His September conviction on misdemeanor drug charges didn't help his case, but he was also set to earn a raise on his $7.3 million salary through arbitration. Given his recent shortcomings on the field, the club was unlikely to retain him from a financial standpoint.

In addition to losing Perez, the Indians' bullpen will go without right hander Joe Smith. He signed a three-year deal with the Angels this offseason. Matt Albers is a free agent as well, so the Indians were searching for a practiced hand who could bring veteran presence to their pen.

Axford has the experience the Indians were searching for, having closed out games for the Brewers as recently as 2012. He was sensational in 2011, saving 46 games and finishing the year with a 1.95 ERA. However, he struggled with control the following season and was traded to the Cardinals for minor leaguer Michael Blazek in 2013 for middle relief depth. For what it's worth, Axford was much better in his 10-1/3 innings of work with the Cardinals, and struck out nine batters in 5-2/3 postseason innings as well.

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