The Cardinals decided that with their bullpen trending young and his salary certain to rise, they could part ways with reliever and former Brewers closer John Axford by not presenting him a contract before baseball’s deadline late Monday night.
Axford woke up a free agent this morning.

The Cardinals gave contracts — or “tendered” them, as the process is called in baseball — to three of the four arbitration-eligible players on their roster. Center fielder Jon Jay, utility infielder Daniel Descalso and newcomer Peter Bourjos all received an offer from the Cardinals that assures they’ll have a contract for the 2014 season.

Unable to reach agreements on the salary before Monday’s deadline, the Cardinals and the individual players will allow the arbitration process to set the figure unless an agreement can be struck later. Axford was the only “non-tender” for the Cardinals this season.

Axford, 30, was acquired by the Cardinals in August as a late addition to fortify the bullpen. The righty, who led the league with 46 saves for Milwaukee in 2011, had a 1.74 ERA in 13 appearances and 10 1/3 innings for the Cardinals. In the playoffs, he held opponents to a .105 batting average and had a 1.59 ERA in six appearances. But, tellingly, five of his six appearances came late in games the Cardinals lost.

The Cardinals traded rookie Michael Blazek to the Brewers in exchange for Axford, who came with a $5 million salary. Through he arbitration process, he was due a raise, which would have made him the second highest-paid reliever for the Cardinals behind Jason Motte, who is owed $7 million for the coming season. Rookie Trevor Rosenthal has been named the closer going into the 2014 season, leaving the Cardinals to cast both Motte, who is returning from elbow surgery, and Axford as setup men, pricey setup men.