Can you feel the nostalgia? There’s plenty going around the state of Wisconsin right now. Randall Cobb is back in a Packers uniform, and now John Axford is back with the Milwaukee Brewers.
While the Packers front office wasn’t too insistent on the idea of bringing back Cobb until Aaron Rodgers suggested it, the Axford move is completely brought on by the Brewers front office.
Despite not pitching in the big leagues since 2018, Axford signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays earlier this year and pitched to a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 IP for their Triple-A affiliate.
He’s being brought up to the active roster and will wear the Brewers uniform for the first time since 2013.
In honor of John Axford’s return to Milwaukee, here are two other former Brewers the Crew should consider bringing back to play in 2021.
1. Ryan Braun
This one is the obvious choice, right? Ryan Braun played with Axford on that 2011 NL Central champion team and every single Brewers team from 2007 through 2020. Braun’s contract ran out after last season and he hasn’t signed one since. Braun hasn’t stated he’s fully retired, but that he’s just happy where he’s at right now.
Because Braun has left the door open to a possible return to play, fans have been hoping for and expecting him to walk through that door and return to play in 2021. Braun was never a fan of spring training and early games and if he can arrive later in the season for less wear and tear on his body, then the healthier he should be.
While the Brewers don’t have a “need” in the outfield per se, Braun can be a veteran bat off the bench to get some pinch hit opportunities if he so desires.
Coaxing Braun out of retirement has been difficult to do. He’s been on the air with Bob Uecker a couple of times, first back in spring training and once again a few weeks ago, but despite Ueck’s best efforts to convince him to come back, Braun has been tight-lipped. Perhaps what Uecker was saying was working, but if it was, Braun gave no indication of it.
Axford and Braun were two cornerstone pieces to the success of that 2011 squad. Uniting them both again could create something special.
2. Jeremy Jeffress
If we’re adding former closers to the bullpen to help out, why not give a call to Jeremy Jeffress? Jeffress has pitched at a high level far more recently, knows more of the guys on the roster, and likely still has more left in the tank.
Jeffress had his contract option declined after the 2019 season, then pitched in 2020 for the Cubs and had a strong year. He signed a deal with the Nationals earlier this season but was released in spring training due to unexplained “personnel reasons”. There’s been some drama about Jeffress and why no team has signed such a recently productive pitcher.
Jeffress is now pitching in independent ball with the Lexington Legends and is staying in good shape. However, in eight appearances for Lexington, Jeffress holds an 8.22 ERA with seven walks in 7.2 IP.
So perhaps he has a little more rust to shake off, but Jeffress has always just pitched better in a Brewers uniform. Everywhere else he’s pitched in the big leagues, he’s been just mediocre or sometimes straight up bad. But when he’s with Milwaukee, he’s been dominant.
In parts of seven seasons with the Brewers, Jeffress has a 2.66 ERA in over 300 games. With everyone else, he has a 4.15 ERA in over 100 games.
While it’s unknown what drama was unfolding with the Nationals, this has always been a place where Jeffress has thrived and with his late-inning experience, Jeffress could also be a key piece down the stretch for Milwaukee.