PBL Transactions, 6/15/15 – 6/21/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

 

 

Knoxville Smokies

Knoxville Smokies: Called up 2B Danny Kurland. Demoted CF Arnold Carranza.

 

 

Salt Lake SamuraiSalt Lake Samurai: Activated C DeAndre Turnbull from the disabled list. Placed 2B Quincy Gaytan on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up 2B Gabriel Montalvo.  Demoted 1B Dwayne Parillo.

 

Silver City OutlawsSilver City Outlaws: Called up LF Marlon Hintz. Demoted DH Teddy Olivas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PBL Transactions, 6/8/15 – 6/14/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

California Sharks

 

California Sharks: Called up 1B Jamal Gerke and RP Herman Moret.  Demoted 1B John Lassen and RP Milan Constant.

 

Jacksonville Dragons

Jacksonville Dragons: Activated SP Kyle Palmer from the 15-day disabled list.  Called up RP Jamel Janke.  Demoted RPs Elias Rosado and Michael Youngblood.

 

 

Knoxville Smokies

Knoxville Smokies: Called up RP Jose Mariata.  Demoted RP Sheldon Follis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PBL Transactions, 6/1/15 – 6/7/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

California Sharks

 

California Sharks: Signed free agents 1B Jamal Gerke, SS Grant Knepper, CF Conrad Mojica, SP Kerry Lopez, and RPs Osvaldo Barret and Jason Richter.

 

Jackson Hammerheads

Jackson Hammerheads: Signed free agents C Carlos Asperzol, 3B Elmo Milliner, LF Monty Walcott, DH Dexter Jester, SP Nico Library, and RF Cortez Petrik.  Waived 1B Coy Tighe. Activated 1B Pete Ciancarulo from the 15-day disabled list.  Placed DH Alex Jaramillo on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up LF Monty Walcott.

 

Jacksonville Dragons

Jacksonville Dragons: Signed free agents 1B Neal B. Thomas, CF Rondei Isua, DH Isaias Miguel, SP Juan Pascos, and RPs Lauren Gilpatrick and Jamel Janke.

 

 

Knoxville Smokies

Knoxville Smokies: Signed free agents 2B Danny Kurland, CF Arnold Carranza, DH Jerome Arch, and RPs Rodolfo Darville, Oscar Madison, and Norman Sater. Claimed 1B Coy Tighe off waivers. Called up CF Arnold Carranza. Demoted SS Lorenzo Arias and RP Edgar Provenza.

 

Milwaukee Bear Claws

Milwaukee Bear Claws: Signed free agents 2B Quirico Rodriguez, RF Bruce Rew, DH Hans Coghill, and RPs Rodolfo Elmonte, Mike Manigault, and Antonio Schieber.

 

 

Orlando Calrissians

Orlando Calrissians: Signed free agents 2B Jeffrey Matter, LF Sang LeLeux, DH Casey Helmers, SP Ali Godari, and RPs Shab Mickolas and Courtney Vanepps.  Activated CF Glen Madden from the 15-day disabled list.

 

Salt Lake Samurai

Salt Lake Samurai: Signed free agents 1B Lawrence Briski, 2B Gabriel Montalvo, SS Dario Rickard, DH Lazaro Matherne, and RPs Jose Mariata and Bryce Sereno.  Traded RPs Rick Wilkins, Oliver Jones, and Jose Mariata to Knoxville for SP Grant Fore, DH Matthew Weigel, and RP Norman Sater.  (See story here.)  Placed C DeAndre Turnbull on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up RPs Jimmy Okamura and Norman Sater.

 

Silver City Outlaws

Silver City Outlaws: Signed free agents 3B Narciso Rodriguez, CF Sebastian Melora, DH Charley Ingraham, and RPs Irving Godlewski, Duke Newlin, and Ron Wall.

 

 

 

Smokies Make Another Big Deal

Knoxville Smokies owner/GM Jeremiah Mills has a fever.  And the only prescription is more trades.  The man is constantly working the phones and sending emails, looking for ways to improve his team, looking for ways to keep things fresh, sometimes looking for deals just to satisfy his pathological need to trade.  Mills isn’t afraid to make a big deal if he thinks it will make his team better.  And once he decides he wants a player, he stops at nothing until that player is his.

Those two tendencies came together in a major trade between the Smokies and the Salt Lake Samurai.  Knoxville shipped out their former ace, Grant Fore, along with minor-leaguers Matthew Weigel and Norman Sater, to Salt Lake in exchange for relievers Oliver Jones and Rick Wilkins and prospect Jose Mariata.

“I feel like we have a strong team,” said Mills, “but there’s always room to improve.  And you never know what kind of deals are out there unless you ask.  That’s why I’m always asking.”

The Smokies are currently in hot pursuit of the Jackson Hammerheads atop the East, and one weakness that Mills has identified in his team is the bullpen.  After a promising start, the relief corps has faltered in recent weeks.  Mills is hoping that Wilkins and Jones can provide the Knoxville pen with some badly needed depth and strength.

Rick Wilkins KNX
Rick Wilkins

Wilkins, a 31-year-old righty, is on his third stop of the season.  He opened the year with the Silver City Outlaws, but landed in manager John Jarha’s doghouse after a particularly poor outing.  Last month, the Outlaws shipped him to Salt Lake in exchange for reliever Cliff Humphrey.  After feeling he never got a fair shake in Silver City, Wilkins thrived in Salt Lake.  In 11 appearances, Wilkins posted a 3.71 ERA and compiled a 12-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“I’m thankful to the Samurai organization for giving mt the chance to prove myself,” said Wilkins.  “I was gathering dust [in Silver City], and it felt like I might wither away.  The Samurai let me do what I do best.  Every player want s to compete for a championship, and I’m glad I’ll get to do that with the Smokies.  But I’ll always remember my time here.”

The versatile, rubber-armed Wilkins could fill a number of roles in the Knoxville bullpen.  He is likely to get a number of late-inning opportunities, complementing or possibly even supplanting Sheldon Follis as the team’s primary setup man.  He may also provide some long relief, taking some of the pressure off of Jerry Tile.

Oliver Jones
Oliver Jones

Jones, a 19-year-old lefty, has less promising stats than Wilkins.  In 22 appearances with the Samurai, Jones compiled an 0-3 record and a 6.89 ERA.  He has struggled quite a bit with his control, allowing 25 walks against only 12 strikeouts.  But he started the season in promising fashion before hi numbers nosedived, and many analysts attribute his swoon to overwork.

“[The Samurai] were riding him like a rented mule,” said one scout of Jones.  “God bless the kid, he kept going out there and never complained.  But someone needed to rescue him before his arm fell off.”

The Knoxville bullpen has only one incumbent southpaw, Tobias Dennis, who has also struggled recently.  The Smokies front office hopes that the two can split opportunities and take some of the pressure off of each other.

Jose Mariata
Jose Mariata

Wilkins and Jones figure to help Knoxville compete this season.  But according to sources with the team, the real prize for Mills in this deal was Mariata.  He has coveted the 20-year-old righty from afar for some time, and it’s easy to see why.  Mariata has an arm that makes scouts drool; his fastball has been clocked at speeds up to 103 MPH.  He is an extremely raw prospect who is still learning to harness his talent, but he profiles as a future closer, according to scouts.

“He just plain throws smoke,” said one scout.  “He has Aroldis Chapman stuff, plus.  He could wind up being the best player in this deal in the long run.”

Grant Fore
Grant Fore

The key to this deal from Salt Lake’s perspective is Fore.  The 20-year-old lefty was expected to be a building block of the Smokies franchise and an anchor of their rotation, but things never clicked for him in Knoxville.  Fore compiled a 1-3 record and an 8.18 ERA in a Smokies uniform, failing to find success as a starter or a reliever.  He lost his spot in the rotation when the Smokies acquired Jack Jacques from Jacksonville, and never really found his footing after that.

“We wanted to keep Grant, but we had to make a move that would get us immediate help,” said Mills.  “Also, Fore deserved to go to an organization that could be more patient with him.”

While the pennant-contending Smokies couldn’t afford the wait to see if Fore could turn things around.  But for the rebuilding Samurai, he represents a promising gamble.  If he can regain the form he displayed as a college prospect, Fore could become the reliable starter that Salt Lake desperately needs.

“We’re really excited to have Grant on board,” said Samurai owner/GM Sarah Buehler.  “We believe he and Toshiie Maeda can be the 1-2 punch that will make us a contender for years to come.”

Matthew Weigel
Matthew Weigel

The other two pieces coming Salt Lake’s way are low-cost veterans that provide additional depth options.  The 35-year-old Weigel came to spring training with Knoxville to compete for the DH job, but was beaten out for the position by Alex Jaramillo and has spent the season in the minors.  But for the Samurai, who have struggled to generate consistent offense, Weigel has a shot to crack the lineup before the season is out.  He spent last season in Japan, where he batted .246 with 24 home runs.

Norman Sater
Norman Sater

The 37-year-old Sater, a right-handed reliever, originally signed with Silver City, but was waived during spring training.  He pitched last season in the Atlantic League, where he posted a 2-5 record with 6 saves and a 4.82 ERA.  A former fireballer who has become a finesse pitcher with age, Sater figures to take the spot formerly held by Wilkins in the Samurai bullpen.  He may also have the opportunity to start later in the season.

Some around the league have questioned why the Samurai, who should be stockpiling youth, decided to trade two very young players (Jones and Mariata) while getting only one in return (Fore).  But the Samurai front office believes that Fore has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone, while neither Jones nor Mariata figured into the organization’s long-term plans.  If either one turns out to be a future star and Fore continues to stumble, the trade could turn into a major embarrassment for Salt Lake.  But as a team that has a long way to go to be a contender, the Samurai know they’re going to have to take some chances in order to get better, and they believe Fore is a chance with taking.

As for Knoxville, they’re clearly hoping that Jones and Wilkins can help them compete in the short term.  But they’ve got to be hoping that Fore won’t turn out to be the one that got away.

Hammerheads, Smokies Strike Blockbuster Deal

You might think that the Jackson Hammerheads and Knxoville Smokies, direct competitors in the Patriot League’s Eastern division, might not be interested in making trades with each other.  But the teams’ owner/GMs, Knoxville’s Jeremiah Mills and Jackson’s Steven Butler, have a lot in common.  They’re both active owners who are always seeking ways to improve their teams.  They’re not averse to taking risks and making big splashes.  If there is going to be a major deal this season, the Hammerheads and Smokies are by far the most likely teams to make it.

The two combined to close out the month of May with a doozy of a deal, one that was reportedly struck during a back-alley poker game between the teams’ owners.  Knoxville traded DH Alex Jaramillo, starter Yu Chen, and 1B Pete Cianciarulo to Jackson for 1B Eddie Battin and reliever Sylvester Lighty.  It’s the second trade between the two teams, after the preseason swap that sent reliever Butch Turnbull to Jackson in exchange for 3B Ronnie Aceuedo.

Eddie Battin
Eddie Battin

The prize of this deal from the Smokies’ perspective was unquestionably Battin.  “We’ve been trying to land him pretty much since Opening Day,” said Mills.  The 27-year-old Battin was a popular figure in the Hammerheads clubhouse, a man who kept things loose with a steady stream of jokes and an iPod full of upbeat country and rock-and-roll songs that he played after Jackson’s frequent victories.  Although Battin has been a bit of a disappointment with the bat, hitting .247 with 6 homers and 28 RBI so far on the season, he has earned a reputation as an excellent fielder.  He is expected to man first base in Knoxville as well, with incumbent first sacker Malcolm Bryant sliding into the DH role.

“I hate to see Eddie leaving here,” said Hammerheads CF Damian “Black Hammer” Deason.  “He’s been our heart and soul.  Maybe the deal makes sense on paper, but that’s a big loss for us.”

Sylvester Lighty
Sylvester Lighty

Lighty also represents an intriguing piece for the Smokies.  The 35-year-old right-hander started the season in Jackson’s crowded bullpen, but when starter Luke Danton went on the DL with a rotator cuff injury, Lighty slid right into the rotation and thrived.  He posted a 4-2 record and a 3.77 ERA with the Hammerheads in 13 appearances, including five starts.  He is expected to join Knoxville’s starting staff.

“It’s an good opportunity, that’s how I think of it,” said Lighty.  “I’ve got a lot of friends here [in Jackson], and I think this team’s got a real shot at winning it all.  It’s hard to walk away.  But I love starting, and if the Smokies are giving me a chance to start, that’s something to be excited about.  And I’m sure there’s some cool guys there, too.  It should be fun!”

Alex Jaramillo
Alex Jaramillo

Jaramillo, the biggest name heading to the Hammerheads in the deal, has been the Smokies’ full-time DH for most of the season.  The 25-year-old slugger has put up fairly solid numbers, batting .266 with 10 HR and 34 RBI.  Unlike Battin, he does not have a reputation as a clubhouse favorite.  Knoxville teammates considered him to be somewhat egocentric and aloof, and he reportedly clashed with Smokies manager Snuff Wallace on a number of issues, most notably his spot in the batting order.

“I don’t know if anybody here’s going to be sorry to see him gone,” said one Knoxville player.  “Alex is in a lovefest… with Alex.”

Jaramillo is expected to serve as the Hammerheads’ designated hitter, which will trigger a series of rearrangements in the lineup.  Erin Arispe, who has served as Jackson’s DH since returning from a DL stint for a hamstring problem, will return to his season-opening position in right field.  Lacy Wilczynski, who has been manning right since Arispe’s injury, will replace Battin at first base.

Yu Chen
Yu Chen

Chen represents the biggest question mark in the deal, and perhaps the player with the most upside.  The 27-year-old Korean lefty struggled mightily with the Smokies this season.  He missed an early-season start with a back injury and seemingly never got himself back into working order after that.  In eight starts with Knoxville, Chen posted a 1-4 record and a 6.60 ERA.  Like Jaramillo, Chen had a difficult relationship with Wallace.  The manager felt that Chen was difficult to communicate with (in fairness, Chen is a recent immigrant who is not fluent in English) and that he was less than diligent in working out and staying in shape between starts.

The Hammerheads hope that new pitching coach Eddie Harris can get Chen straightened out and get him back to the workhorse form he showed in Korea, where he posted a 24-9 record and a 3.22 ERA in 40 starts last season.

Pete Cianciarulo
Pete Cianciarulo

Cianciarulo, a 32-year-old New Jersey native, who has failed to perform in limited action with the Smokies, was generally regarded as a throw-in to the deal.  He is currently on the disabled list, and is expected to be sent to the minors by the Hammerheads once he gets back.

It’s unquestionably a major deal, but the question must be asked: Did either team really get better?  It may be addition by subtraction for the Smokies, who got rid of two players the manager had soured on.  But it’s far from clear that Battin will perform any better offensively than Jaramillo, and Bryant had been doing a fine job defensively at first.  Lighty seems like a good bet for the rotation, but he’s only seen limited action there.  As for the Hammerheads, they’re rolling the dice by bringing two players of questionable character into what has been a tight and happy clubhouse.  Will the positive atmosphere in Jackson rub off on Jaramillo and Chen, or will it be the other way around?  And is Chen capable of producing the results he did in his home country, or have the years and innings taken their toll on his arm?

Jackson’s Butler, one of the architects of the deal, shrugged when asked about the impact.  “I’m not sure whether either team got better from a talent standpoint,” Butler said.  “It’s really just dragon-chasing.”

The trade leaves the Hammerheads one man over the roster limit, and the Smokies a man short.  As of the time this article went to press, neither team had announced a corresponding move.

PBL Transactions, 5/25/15 – 5/31/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

Jackson Hammerheads

 

Jackson Hammerheads: Traded 1B Eddie Battin and RP Sylvester Lighty to Knoxville for DH Alex Jaramillo, SP Yu Chen, and 1B Pete Cianciarulo. (See story here.)

 

Salt Lake Samurai

 

Salt Lake Samurai: Activated RF Romeo Martinez from the 15-day disabled list. Demoted 3B Luis Poncilar.

 

 

 

 

PBL Transactions, 4/19/15 – 4/25/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

California Sharks

 

California Sharks: Traded RP Lucas Henderson to Salt Lake for RP Boss Walker. Demoted RP David Watts. (See story here.)

 

Jackson Hammerheads

 

Jackson Hammerheads: Placed SP Luke Danton and RF Erin Arispe on the 15-day disabled list.  Called up DH Armando Behrens and 1B Vernon Mack.

 

Jacksonville Dragons

 

Jacksonville Dragons: Claimed free agent RP Mike Manigault.  Demoted RPs Elias Rosado and Emilio Abbas.  Waived C Carlos Asperzol.

 

Knoxville Smokies

 

Knoxville Smokies: Traded RP Ward “Blueberry” Jackson to Jacksonville for RP Jack Jacques. (See story here.)

 

Orlando Calrissians

 

Orlando Calrissians: Demoted SP Rick Tomblin. Called up SP Oscar Morton.

Relievers On the Move In Two Trades

With several Patriot League teams seeing subpar bullpen performances, it comes as no surprise that  the trade market in relievers is heating up.  The two deals that went down this week involved teams swapping firemen with an eye toward shaking things up.

Lucas Henderson
Lucas Henderson
Boss Walker
Boss Walker

In the first trade, the California Sharks sent swingman Lucas Henderson to the Salt Lake Samurai in exchange for veteran left-hander Boss Walker.  The 33-year-old Henderson has spent the season to date with the Sharks’ farm team; he posted an 8-5 record with 3 saves and a 4.08 ERA last year pitching in the independent Atlantic League.  The 34-year-old Walker has seen very limited action with the Samurai this year, posting a 13.50 ERA in 3 1/3 innings, but has pitched successfully in the Mexican League for the last several seasons.

The trade fills a need for both teams.  For Salt Lake, the key to the deal is balance.  Previously, the only right-handers in the Samurai pen were long reliever Miguel Bautista and closer Dean Gamble.  Henderson’s arrival provides a balance between left and right.  Also, his ability to start or relieve provides some much-needed flexibility for a badly struggling team that has question marks throughout his pitching staff.

“We gave this deal very serious consideration,” said Samurai owner/GM Sarah Buehler.  “In the end, I decided to do it because of the versatility that Lucas offers.  We may use him as a starter, long reliever, or short reliever, depending on what our needs are and where he performs best.”

Henderson expressed excitement at the opportunity.  “I’m psyched to have shot at in the majors,” Henderson said.  “And we’ve got nowhere to go but up, so I can’t wait to see what happened.”

For the slumping Sharks, their goal was to acquire a reliable, experience lefty relief arm.  Walker is expected to slot in as California’s top lefty relief option in the late innings.  Their previous top lefty, 19-year-old Luke Bond, has shown flashes of brilliance, but has also displayed a lack of polish and a propensity for gopher balls.  Their other southpaw reliever, journeyman David Watts, has been awful, pitching to a 20.25 ERA on the season.  (The Sharks are demoting Watts to the minors to make room for Walker on the active roster.)  It is hoped that Walker can stabilize the Sharks’ left side and serve as a mentor to Bond.

“We were thrilled that a player of Boss’s caliber was available,” said Sharks owner/GM Colin Mills.  “While we hate to give up a valuable guy like Lucas, we’re excited to bring Boss aboard.  We believe he’ll be a key piece for us going forward.”

Walker seems more than happy to leave Salt Lake.  “At least now I’ll get to see color,” said Walker, adding, “Salt Lake City is the whitest place on earth.  The fact that I’ll be playing for a team that actually has a shot at something, that’s gravy.”

Blueberry Jackson
Blueberry Jackson
Jack Jacques
Jack Jacques

In the second deal, the Knoxville Smokies acquired right-hander Jack Jacques from the Jacksonville Dragons in exchange for lefty setup man Ward “Blueberry” Jackson.  For the always-active Smokies, this is their third deal of the still-young season, having acquired 3B Ronnie Aceuedo during spring training and RF Victor Gomez earlier this month.  The 25-year-old Jacques, the only Haitian-born player in the Patriot League, has both started and relieved during his career.  The Smokies are reportedly considering whether to insert Jacques into their rotation (possibly in place of struggling Grant Fore) or use him in their bullpen.

“We’ve wanted Jack Jacques for a long time,” said Smokies owner/GM Jeremiah Mills.  “The asking price came down to a point where we could do a deal.  I’m trying to make the best moves I can and  which I feel will help.  He fills a key hole for us.”

The 33-year-old Jackson, a former closer and Mississippi native, made only one appearance for Knoxville, a 3-inning stint in which he allowed 1 run.  “Guess I shouldn’t have allowed that run,” joked Jackson.  “Otherwise they might have kept me.  But I can be happy wherever I go.”

For Jacksonville, currently riding a four-game losing skid, the trade is part of a larger revamp of their scuffling bullpen.  Jacques was the worst performer for the Dragons, posting an 18.56 ERA in his 3 appearances before being demoted a couple days prior to his trade.  In conjunction with this deal, Jacksonville demoted righty Emilio Abbas, currently sporting a 6.75 ERA, and lefty Elias Rosado, who has posted a 7.71 mark.  Taking their place are Jackson, 20-year-old prospect John Longroofan, and newly signed free agent right-hander Mike Manigault.

“We’re gonna keep doing this until we get it right,” said Dragons manager Harlan Davidson.  “If these guys don’t work out, we’ll throw ’em on the pile and bring in another group.  I’m not gonna watch us keep blowing games like we’ve done.”

 

 

PBL Transactions, 4/12/15 – 4/18/15

The following transactions occurred in the Patriot League over the last week:

Jacksonville Dragons

 

Jacksonville Dragons: Called up RP John Longroofan. Demoted RP Jack Jacques. (See story here.)

 

Knoxville Smokies

 

Knoxville Smokies: Traded 3B Chris “Catknife” Davidson to Salt Lake for LF Victor Gomez.  Demoted SS Lorenzo Arias.

 

Salt Lake Samurai

 

Salt Lake Samurai: Called up UT Edmund Rains.  Demoted 3B Luis Poncilar.

 

Silver City Outlaws

 

Silver City Outlaws: Called up DH Teddy Olivas. Demoted LF Marlon Hintz.

 

Samurai Acquire 3B Davidson from Smokies

Chris Davidson
Chris Davidson
gomez
Victor Gomez

Looking to shake things up in the wake of their 1-9 start, the Salt Lake Samurai today acquired 3B Chris “Catknife” Davidson from the Knoxville Smokies in exchange for OF Victor Gomez.

“We needed to make a change,” said Samurai owner/GM Sarah Buehler.  “This was an easy move to make us better at a position of need.  We’re always open to opportunities to get better.”

The 28-year-old Davidson, who was on Knoxville’s farm team, has a reputation for excellent fielding.  He got his unusual nickname from a high-school coach who misspoke while praising his “cat-like” reflexes at the hot corner.  “I’m glad for a chance to play,” said Davidson.  “I know [Salt Lake is] struggling right now, but I want to help them improve.”

Davidson will step in to replace Luis Poncilar, who has struggled mightily in the field and at the plate, batting .077 on the year and having made several costly errors.  In a related move, the Samurai demoted Poncilar and recalled utility man Edmund Rains.

The 38-year-old Gomez began the season as Salt Lake’s starting right fielder, but was benched in favor of Romeo Martinez after posting a .125 average.  The left-handed Gomez is expected to platoon with Alex Jaramillo at DH and to serve as a top pinch-hitter.  “Victor is a skilled veteran who we think will be a key contributor for us,” said Smokies owner/GM Jeremiah Mills.

To make room for Gomez on the active roster, Knoxville sent SS Lorenzo Arias down to the minors.  This is the second deal of the season for the Smokies, who swapped reliever Butch Turnbull for 3B Ronnie Aceuedo during spring training.