At this stage of the Patriot League season, most teams have a good sense of their shortcomings and the areas where they need help. The Jackson Hammerheads, for instance, have struggled to identify consistent lockdown arms in the bullpen. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Sazeracs are desperately seeking stability in their rotation. The teams have struck a deal to try to address their respective weaknesses, with New Orleans shipping veteran left-handed reliever Boss Walker to Jackson in exchange for starter Yu Chen.
The 35-year-old Walker has been used primarily as a lefty specialist by New Orleans this season, with a 1-0 record and a pair of save to go along with a 4.41 ERA. He split last season between Salt Lake and California, providing some much-needed stability for the left side of the Sharks’ relief corps. For Jackson, a team that’s already well-stocked with lefty relievers, they’re hoping to use Walker as a late-inning weapon against lefties and righties alike.
“We’re very excited to bring The Boss here to Jackson,” said Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler. “He’s got the kind of experience and attitude we’re looking for in the late innings. He’s the key piece to solving our bullpen puzzle. The rest of the teams in the East should just save us all some time and give up now. I’ll send them all tickets to our championship parade.”
Walker is a native of Mississippi, but he will miss the Big Easy. “New Orleans is my favorite city in the world,” said Walker. “But Jackson’s a better team, and I’m all in to get me a ring. Besides, we’ll be through town pretty often, so I’ll have plenty of chances to get my jazz and jambalaya fix.”
Chen represents an intriguing buy-low opportunity for the Sazeracs. The 28-year-old Korean lefty came to Jackson last season in the disastrous Eddie Battin deal, and failed to establish himself as a fixture in the Hammerheads’ rotation. After going 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA in 2016, Chen was exiled to the bullpen down the stretch. He got another chance to start this season, but flamed out quickly and returned to relief exile.
Chen’s numbers this season testify both to his poor performance and his limited use: 0-1, one save, and a 9.39 ERA in only 16 1/3 innings of work. Butler had been shopping Chen aggressively around the league, but found few takers.
The Sazeracs, though, are in desperate need of rotation help. They’ve had a solid top two in Darius Tice and Matthew Erickson, but otherwise they’ve been plagued by injuries, ineffectiveness, and an addiction to the local nightlife. One season-opening start, Norm “Rattler” LaForce, landed in alcohol rehab.
“It’s no secret that we need some help in the rotation,” said Sazeracs owner/GM Jeff Wiggins. “We’re hoping that given a low-pressure environment and the chance to straighten out his mechanics, Yu will be able to rediscover the form that made him successful in Korea. Let the good starts roll!”
As part of the trade, the Hammerheads and Sazeracs agreed to exchange players to be named later. Both parties were tight-lipped on that aspect of the deal, but Butler reportedly submitted a lengthy list of conditions regarding the PTBNL exchange prior to the league office approving the deal. According to sources with knowledge of the deal, the list was notarized and ran up to 10 pages. Asked for specifics, Butler declined, saying, “Revealing those details might compromise other trades that the Sultan of Swap has in the works. But we made sure to cover all appropriate contingencies. The details will be revealed at the appropriate time.”