Smokies Strike Three Deals at Deadline

Did the Knoxville Smokies need to make a deadline trade?  They’ve been well out front in the East for almost the entire season, having built a lead as large as 15 games.  They’re the overwhelming favorites to win the division and a virtual lock to make the playoffs.  However, the Smokies have slipped a bit in recent weeks and the Jacksonville Dragons have been surging, cutting Knoxville’s lead to 8 1/2 games.  So perhaps the Smokies needed to make a trade to shore up their position.

Jeremy Mills, Duke of the Deadline

On the other hand, Smokies owner/GM Jeremy Mills never needs an excuse to make a trade.  He is a well-known trading obsessive.  It’s rumored that Mills is largely interested in his team because it gives him an excuse to make trades.  He makes trades when his team is doing well, and he makes trades when they’re doing poorly.  He deals players on hot streak, and he deals players in slumps.  He makes trades to improve his team, and he makes trades just for the heck of it.  Give the man even the slightest hint of a trade offer, and he’ll pounce on it like a tiger on fresh meat.

Given Mills’ insatiable lust for dealmaking, it’s no surprise that even during a fairly quiet deadline, the Smokies made not one, not two, but three deals.  “You know how it is with trades: one’s too many and a thousand is never enough,” said the Knoxville owner.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first deal the Smokies made was with the team chasing them in the standings, the Dragons.  It was a swap of starters in need of a change of scenery, as Knoxville acquired left-hander Randy Cannon from the Dragons in exchange for southpaw Rick Tomblin.  The 25-yer-old Cannon was a solid innings-eater in Jacksonville’s rotation last season, but after getting off to a rough start with sporadic work this season, he was quickly exiled to the bullpen.  At the time of the trade, he sported an 0-3 record with a 6.69 ERA.

“We wish Randy Cannon well,” said Dragons owner Eric Stetson.  “He’s a good man and a solid pitcher.  We felt that a fresh start was the best way for Randy to get his career back on track.”

Tomblin, meanwhile, was dealt at the deadline for the second straight season; last season, the Smokies picked him up from Orlando at the end of July.  The 23-year-old started the season in Knoxville’s rotation before getting exiled after a slow start.  After spending time in the bullpen and in the minors, Smokies manager Snuff Wallace promoted Tomblin back to a starting role after rookie Jody Garrity got hurt.  He did a credible job, although he left multiple starts early due to injury.  He did pass the Dragons’ medical exam, however, and seems likely to bring his live arm into Jacksonville’s rotation.  He compiled a 1-1 record and a 4.66 ERA with Knoxville.

“Rick’s a tremendous talent, and it wasn’t easy to trade him,” said Mills.  “But Randy’s a special one, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to acquire him.  And clearly, I can’t pass up the opportunity to acquire anyone.”

Knoxville’s second deal of the day involved the Carolina Comets.  The Smokies acquired 2B Quincy Gaytan and lefty starter Adrian Pierce from the Comets in exchange for a pair of right-handers, starter Nico Library and reliever Jose Mariata.  The trade was a bit of a head-scratcher for both sides.  The Smokies already have a second sacker in Jeremiah Campo.  Gaytan has a reputation as a quality fielder, and he got off to a hot start with the bat this season.  But he’s gone cold over the last couple months, with his average sinking to .281, with no power.  Pierce, meanwhile, is a 22-year-old rookie who has yet to play a PBL game.

In exchange, the Comets pick up a pair of intriguing but extremely raw prospects.  Mariata, whom the Smokies acquired from Salt Lake last season, has a triple-digit fastball, but he has major control issues.  On the season, the 21-year-old Mariata sports a 10.00 ERA, has allowed more than twice as many hits as innings pitched, and has walked three times as many hitters as he has struck out.  Library, meanwhile, is a marginal 24-year-old prospect who showed mysterious flashes of adequacy during a limited starting stint with the Smokies this year, going 2-2 with a 3.99 ERA.

“Who wins this trade?  Who knows?” said Mills.  “But hey, a deal’s a deal!  Trading is where it’s at!”

Finally, in the closing minutes before the deadline, Knoxville re-acquired an old friend, picking up 3B Ronnie Aceuedo from the Orlando Calrissians in exchange for left-handed reliever Spencer Einhorn.  The trade was an implicit admission of failure by the Smokies GM.  During spring training this year, the Smokies dealt Aceuedo, along with 1B Malcolm Bryant, to Orlando in exchange for 3B Curt Figueroa.  Knoxville was counting on a bounce-back year from Figueroa; instead, he has been a disappointment, hitting only .234 with 14 homers.  Meanwhile, Bryant has been a strong contributor on a much improved Orlando team.

By picking up Aceuedo, the Smokies are hoping for a return to the form he showed last year, when he surprised with a strong season at the hot corner.  This year, Aceuedo hit only .223 with 6 home runs for Orlando.  In exchange, the Calrissians picked up Einhorn, a lefty reliever who made only 6 appearance with Knoxvile, going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA.

“Ronnie’s a guy we’ve always liked,” said Mills.  “We hated letting him go in the first place, and we’re excited to have him back.  More importantly, I got to make another trade!  A trade!  A sweet, life-affirming trade!  Whee!”

Mills is confident that the Smokies’ deadline wheeling and dealing has left his team in a better place coming down the stretch.  Perhaps more importantly, he has defended his crown as the PBL’s trading king.  “I don’t see the Sultan out here talking about his big trades, because he didn’t make any,” said Mills in a playful jab at his rival, Jackson Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler, the self-proclaimed “Sultan of Swap.”  The Hammerheads were reportedly trying to strike a trade at the deadline, but were unable to work it out.  Said the Smokies boss: “The Hammerheads are standing still, and we’re charging ahead.”

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Sharks Bolster Bullpen, Acquire Abernathy from Milwaukee

The California Sharks are gearing up for big things in the postseason.  They’ve had a comfortable lead in the West for most of the year, and are almost certainly headed for the playoffs.  With that in mind, the Sharks came into Wednesday’s trade deadline looking to bolster their few weaknesses and prepare for a deep run.  Their lineup is producing the most runs in the league, so there’s no need for upgrades on that score.  Their rotation also looks postseason-ready, especially once knuckleballer Todd Warrant returns from injury.   But their bullpen was a reliable arm short; closer Eugene Grace has been inconsistent, and long man Kerry Lopez has struggled badly.

The Sharks addressed that weakness on Wednesday, acquiring veteran left-handed reliever Olen Abernathy from the Milwaukee Bear Claws in exchange for lefty prospect Luke Bond.

“We’ve got one goal this season, and that’s to win a title,” said California owner/GM Colin Mills.  “We don’t have a lot of weak spots, but we needed one more good relief arm to strengthen our pen.  Olen Abernathy is the guy we wanted, and I couldn’t be happier that we got him.”

Abernathy has postseason experience, as he was a key part of the bullpen that led the Bear Claws to the PBL title in 2015.  “Last season, whenever we played Milwaukee I knew we needed to score early,” said Sharks manager Eduardo Aponte, “because I knew that Almon, Abernathy, and Buenaventura would shut the door right in our faces.”

The southpaw has been reliable again this season, going 3-5 with a 3.29 ERA.  Milwaukee, however, hasn’t been able to repeat its success from last season.  With the team struggling, they were willing to make deals to retool for the future.  “We ain’t giving up on the season,” said Bear Claws skipper Poss Horton, “but we’re looking at making our team stronger for the long haul.”

Bond is a hard-throwing arm with considerable potential.  The 20-year-old southpaw has a fastball that lights up the gun in the upper 90s and a developing curveball.  His biggest issue is control; he walks a lot of batters and is prone to firing wild pitches.  Last season, Bond was 3-3 with a 5.84 ERA in 22 appearances with the Sharks.  This season, he’s been in the minors for California.

“A guy like Luke has the kind of arm you can dream on,” said Horton.  “I’m excited to see what [pitching coach] Zane [Stafford] can do with him.”

Hammerheads Add Another Reliever, Send Thomasson to Big Easy

The Jackson Hammerheads‘ seemingly endless quest to bolster their bullpen continued today, as they acquired left-hander Tobias Dennis from the New Orleans Sazeracs in exchange for C Hong Thomasson.  It’s the second trade within two months between the two teams, who swapped starter Yu Chen for reliever Boss Walker in June.

“The Sultan strikes again!” exulted Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler.  “They might as well FedEx us the championship trophy, because it’s going to be ours!”

Dennis has been the Sazeracs’ most reliable fireman by far this season.  In 59 innings, the 26-year-old southpaw has gone 0-2 with a 3.20 ERA and a .661 OPS against.  New Orleans selected Dennis in the expansion draft from Knoxville, where he went 7-2 with a 4.35 ERA in 2015.

“We really appreciate everything Tobias Dennis has done for us,” said Sazeracs owner Jeff Wiggins.  “We’re glad to give him an opportunity to go after another ring.”

Dennis seems likely to work the late innings for Jackson.  He joins a pen that’s crowded from the left side, however; Walker, Hilton Sircy, Rick Sheen, Josh Nichols, Brett Pollan, and Woody Flowers are all left-handed; closer Bobby Boniface is the only righty currently in the Heads’ relief corps.

“I can get both lefties and righties out,” said Dennis.  “I’m up for whatever role they want to use me in.”

In trading Thomasson, Jackson sends out a fan favorite, albeit one who received little playing time behind Clarence Doyle.  The 27-year-old Thomasson appeared in only 15 games for the Hammerheads this season, batting .276 with a .902 OPS.  He has a reputation as a strong hitter but a weak fielder.  For New Orleans, which has struggled to generate offense behind the dish, Thomasson could be just what the doctor ordered.  Starter Prince Carlo has hit .244 with a .583 OPS, while backups Dave Chavez and Dustin Gould have combined to post only a .143 average.

“Hong will always hold a special place in Jackson hearts,” said Butler. “We wish him well in the Big Easy.”

Butler then turned to the camera and raised his voice.  “But back to business… look out Knoxville, you slack-jawed [SOBs]!” the owner/whiz-kid GM hollered. “What you gonna do when the Heads run wild on you. brother????!!!”  Butler then ripped off his shirt and flexed his muscles, showing off a tattoo on his right bicep of a bald eagle attacking Smokies manager Snuff Wallace.

Sazeracs, Hammerheads Trade Hurlers

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.

Boss Walker

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.”

Yu Chen

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.”

Smokies Strike Twice at Deadline

king_j11
Jeremy Mills, King of Trading

The Patriot League trading deadline was today.  Most observers predicted that the Knoxville Smokies and Jackson Hammerheads would be the most active teams at the deadline, since they’ve been by far the most prolific dealers all season long.  Unsurprisingly, they kicked off the deadline swap meet by making a trade with each other.

But then the Hammerheads struck a deal with the California Sharks, one that threatened to make Jackson owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler the king of the deadline.  But Smokies boss Jeremy Mills wasn’t about to let Butler steal his crown without a fight.  In the final hours before the deadline passed, Mills made a pair of deals that may or may not have made the Smokies the team to beat in the East, but definitely ensured that Mills remained the top trader.

“We’re always looking for ways to make the team better,” said Mills, still visibly twitching from the adrenaline that trading always gives him.

The first deal that Knoxville struck was with the East’s last-place team, the Orlando Calrissians.  The Smokies acquired a pair of left-handed pitchers, Rick Tomblin and Tom Trane, from Orlando in exchange for LF Titus Maben, lefty reliever Oliver Jones, and a 3rd-round draft pick.

The Smokies have the best team ERA in the league (3.47), so it might seem odd that they were looking to add pitching.  But they opened a hole in their rotation when they traded knuckleballer Todd Warrant to Jackson in their earlier deal.  In Tomblin and Trane, they get a pair of possible replacements, although both had a rough ride with the Calrissians.

Rick Tomblin
Rick Tomblin
Tom Trane
Tom Trane

Both Tomblin and Trane began the season in Orlando’s rotation, but both were bounced out after the Calrissians suffered through a disappointing April.  The 22-year-old Tomblin compiled an 0-1 record and a 15.26 ERA in three starts before being banished to the minors.  The 29-year-old Trane was sent to the bullpen after being bumped from the rotation, but he struggled in that role as well before going down with an oblique strain, then winding up in the minors on his return.  Overall, Trane compiled an 0-2 record with a 9.82 ERA in nine appearances with Orlando.

“Tom and Rick are both solid hurlers,” said Smokies manager Snuff Wallace.  “They ran out of chances with Orlando, but I’m sure they’ll both be ready to help us lift that championship trophy.  Rub a little of the Snuff magic dust on ‘em, and they’ll be good.”

According to team sources, it is likely that Trane will work out of the bullpen for Knoxville, giving the Smokies another long-relief arm to supplement Jerry Tile.  As for Tomblin, he seems destined to bump the recently-acquired Nico Library out of the rotation.  Although Knoxville insists that Library will get a start against Jackson, his unimpressive minor-league numbers suggest that he is not destined to remain with the big club for long.

Titus Maben
Titus Maben
Oliver Jones ORL
Oliver Jones

Meanwhile, the Calrissians have made no secret of their desire to rebuild around young players.  While they did make the somewhat curious decision to part with a young arm in Tomblin, the Calrissians received several promising pieces in return.  The 23-year-old Maben headlines the package coming to Orlando.  Although he scuffled in limited action with Knoxville, compiling a .125 average in 32 at-bats, Maben profiles as a quality corner outfielder and potential top-of-the-order bat.  The Calrissians have had major struggles in the outfield, and now they have another prospect to join teenage slugger Bart Law in their stable.

In the 19-year-old Jones, the Calrissians land a capable, hard-throwing young arm that might bring some stability to their wobbly bullpen.  The young southpaw began the season in Salt Lake, where his numbers suffered from overuse.  He was dealt to Knoxville in June, and was slotted into a lower-usage role that allowed him to thrive.  He compiled a 1-1 record with a 3.71 ERA in 16 appearances with the Smokies.  Like a lot of young pitchers, Jones struggles with his control – he has allowed 48 walks this season while recording only 26 strikeouts – but he is considered a highly promising prospect in an area where Orlando is sorely lacking.

“We really wanted a look at a young outfielder, and we liked Maben,” said Calrissians owner Brian Aufmuth.  “But it was the draft pick that pushed us over the edge.  This gives us a real shot to build for the future.”

After completing the deal with Orlando, Mills turned around and struck a bargain with the California Sharks, acquiring LF Rucky Virella in exchange for 3B Max Ortiz.

Rucky Virella
Rucky Virella

The Smokies were looking to add a young player after dealing away several prospects in recent deals, and Virella fits the bill.  The 24-year-old is a versatile young player with decent pop.  After a brief stint with California at the start of the season, he has spent most of the year with the minors, where he compiled a .234 average with 6 homers.  He is capable of playing all three outfield positions and first base, although he does not have a reputation as a good fielder.

Max Ortiz
Max Ortiz

Meanwhile, the Sharks were looking to strengthen their infield, and Ortiz provides what they were looking for.  The veteran can play either corner infield position, and he is known for a solid power bat.  He was relegated to pinch-hit duty with the Smokies, putting up a .208 average in 48 at bats, but he should get much more opportunity with California.  The team plans to start him out in a platoon with Johnie Oller at first, and if he thrives, he may also split time with struggling 3B Karl Mote.

“I am delighted to have Max on our team,” said Sharks manager Eduardo Aponte, who was teammates with Ortiz in the Mexican League several years ago.  “He is a delightful storyteller, a dangerous bat, and he will be a good mentor for our younger players.”

With the deadline now past, Mills and the Smokies are officially done dealing for the season.  Now they’ll just have to wait and see if these tweaks were what the team needed to stay on top, or if the revolving clubhouse door will wind up dooming them.

Jackson, California Roll the Dice on a Deal

The Jackson Hammerheads and California Sharks have a lot in common, apart from their cartilage-based mascots.  Each team is in second place in its division, trailing the first-place team by 5 games.  With the trading deadline at hand, both teams had one last shot to strengthen their teams for the stretch run.  They wound up making a deal with each other, with California sending 1B John Lassen to Jackson in exchange for left-handed reliever Hal Gilreath.

Unsurprisingly, the trade was proposed by Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler, one of the league’s most active wheeler-dealers.  When Sharks owner/GM Colin Mills indicated that he was seeking help for his team’s struggling bullpen, Butler swung into action.  After a brief negotiation, the deal was struck.

For California, the deal is as much about the future as the present.  The Sharks have struggled to establish a reliable relief corps behind right-hander Jan Arzola and rubber-armed closer Eugene Grace.  Veteran David Watts flamed out early and spent much of the season in the minors, pitching to an 11.13 ERA on the season.  19-year-old Luke Bond has proven gopher ball-prone, and he is currently injured.  Long man Ty Shive has struggled with control.  Righty Milan Constant became rusty from erratic use before being demoted.  30-year-old rookie Herman Moret was a pleasant surprise at first, but his numbers drooped as hitters figured him out.  Southpaw Boss Walker, acquired from Salt Lake in a midseason swap, has been decent, but is less than durable.

Hal Gilreath
Hal Gilreath

The acquisition of Gilreath, a 23-year-old slider specialist, comes as part of a larger shakeup of California’s bullpen, as the team has demoted Moret, Watts, and Shive and called up Constant and journeyman Kerry Lopez to join Gilreath.

“We need a bridge to get us to the end of games,” said Mills.  “We’ve seen too many games slip away late.”

Gilreath struggled in limited action with the Hammerheads, posting a 9.72 ERA and allowing 10 hits and 9 walks over 8 1/3 innings.  But Sharks manager Eduardo Aponte likes the lefty’s growth potential.

“Like a lot of young pitchers, Hal has not yet mastered command and the art of pitching to situations,” said Aponte.  “But if we can get his mechanics sorted, he could be a cornerstone for us for many years.”

John Lassen
John Lassen

The 32-year-old Lassen represents Jackson’s latest attempt to make up for their foolhardy decision to trade away popular first sacker Eddie Battin to Knoxville in late May.  Lacy Wilczynski, who has spent the majority of the time at first since Battin’s departure, has batted .247 with virtually zero power, and the Hammerheads are desperate to get more production from the position.

Whether Lassen will be the answer remains to be seen.  The LA native put up a .310 average with 13 homers last year in the independent American Association, but he was an utter flop with the Sharks.  The team benched up after a month of dismal numbers, and ultimately sent him to the minors in June.  In 43 games with California, Lassen batted an astounding .160 with 2 home runs, contributing nothing from an offensive standpoint other than a decent batting eye (drawing 14 walks in 103 at-bats).  Lassen does have a reputation as an excellent glove man, however, a key consideration for the fielding-challenged Hammerheads.

“We bought low on John Lassen,” said Hammerheads manager Lou Hayes.  “We think he’s gonna turn it around for us, and be a solid contributor with the bat and save us runs with his glove too.”

On one level, this is a minor deal, a swap of struggling players in search of a fresh start.  (“What harm could it do to roll the dice?” mused Mills.)  But the deal has significant upside potential for both sides.  If Lassen’s numbers can rebound toward last year’s form, it could fill a major hole in Jackson’s lineup and allow them to chase down the first-place Smokies.  If Gilreath can straighten himself out and start throwing strikes, on the other hand, the Sharks might benefit from this trade for years to come.

Hammerheads and Smokies Deal At the Deadline

Jackson Hammerheads owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler and Knoxville Smokies boss Jeremy Mills are the Pavlovian dogs of trading.  If you so much as mention the word “trade” in their presence, they spring to attention, eager to make a deal.  And despite the fact that their teams are in heated competition for the Eastern division title, they aren’t hesitant to make a deal with each other, as they’ve proven more than once.

So with the trade deadline looming, it comes as no surprise that the Hammerheads and Smokies were working the phones and actively pursuing one last big score.  Jackson was hungry, bordering on desperate, to bolster its starting rotation.  Knoxville was seeking another big bat in the middle of its lineup, and also seeking to scratch Mills’ ever-present trading jones.  Finding the trading waters chilly around the league, they wound up striking a deal with each other.  The Smokies sent starter Todd Warrant and LF Ezra Sisco to the Hammerheads in exchange for LF Track Johnson and minor-league pitcher Nico Library.

Mills called it a “win-win” deal, but others around the league aren’t so sure.  And the stakes couldn’t be higher; if the deal winds up being particularly one-sided, it might wind up deciding the division race.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if this trade winds up winning it for us?” said Butler.

Todd Warrant
Todd Warrant

For Butler’s Hammerheads, Warrant is the big prize, giving them the impact starter they so desperately needed.  This season, the 25-year-old knuckleballer put up a 9-5 record and a 2.65 ERA, the lowest mark in the Smokies’ rotation.  He will take the third slot in Jackson’s rotation, bumping Korean lefty Yu Chen, a failed reclamation project for the Hammerheads.

Starting pitching has been a major weakness for Jackson this season; ace Henry Jones and fifth starter Jordan Bergman have thrived, but the rest of the rotation has struggled with injury and ineffectiveness.  If Warrant can continue to put up strong numbers for Jackson, it will be a big win for them.  However, according to sources around the league, Knoxville had been shopping Warrant aggressively for some time, as their front office felt that his high walk totals (61 in 139 1/3 innings) and high unearned run total made him a poor long-term bet.

“Warrant was great!  We’ll miss him,” said Mills.  “I hope he does well, at least until he faces us.”

Ezra Sisco
Ezra Sisco

The 24-year-old Sisco, meanwhile, has shown himself to be a capable fielder and an excellent contact hitter, although one who lacks power.  Batting largely out of the ninth slot for Knoxville, Sisco posted a .303 average with 2 home runs on the season.  He’s also flashed excellent speed, swiping 18 bags to date.  The Hammerheads haven’t been shy about deemphasizing power, and they think Sisco’s game will be a good fit for the cavernous dimensions at Cash Carter Downs.

“He’s the kind of guy who can keep the line moving and steal a base or two,” said Hammerheads manager Lou Hayes.  “He’ll look real good in Hammerheads blue.”

Track Johnson
Track Johnson

Meanwhile, the Smokies are taking a gamble on Johnson’s ability to jump-start their offensive attack.  The burly 29-year-old compiled a .321 average and an .877 OPS in Jackson, in addition to displaying a fine batting eye and a strong outfield arm.  Although he generally batted out of the seventh slot for Jackson, he profiles as a middle-of-the-order hitter in Knoxville’s more power-friendly lineup.

“Move over, ’27 Yankees, here come the Smokies!” said Knoxville manager Snuff Wallace, visibly salivating at the prospect of adding Johnson to his lineup.  “Look at the heart of our order!  Malcolm Bryant, Eddie Battin, Jackson Campo, now Track.  We got a carload of cannons!”

Nico Library
Nico Library

The wild card in the deal is Library, a poorly regarded 23-year-old righty.  Library has spent his season to date in the minors, splitting his time between starting and relieving, and has compiled a 3-1 record and a 5.39 ERA, allowing 54 hits over 43 innings.  He is not regarded as a hard thrower, nor does he have excellent control, and he is not particularly durable.  Library’s reputation is so lackluster that some have questioned why Knoxville would ask for him in the trade.

“His only ability is availability,” said one league scout.  “I’m not sure I’d take him if you paid me.”

Although Mills was clear that acquiring Johnson was his focus, he insists that he intends to insert Library into Knoxville’s rotation.  “Embracing my inner Snuff,” said Mills with a smile.  Library’s first start would come against his former team on August 17th.  “Of course, there may be another trade in the works,” said the Smokies capo.

For Butler, this trade represents a chance to even the scales after his last deal with Knoxville went sour.  At the end of May, Jackson shipped 1B Eddie Battin and swingman Sylvester Lighty to Knoxville for Chen and DH Alex Jaramillo.  Although the trade was considered a wash at the time, it wound up being a steal for the Smokies.  Battin has raked for Knoxville (putting up a .357 average with 17 homers) and Lighty has been a solid starter (posting a 5-5 record and a 3.48 ERA), while Chen fizzled with the Hammerheads and Jaramillo struggled with injuries and has posted underwhelming numbers since.

Will this trade be Butler’s revenge?  Or will Mills wind up executing another swindle?  Or will the trade be a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing?  Only time will tell.

“At least we did something,” said Butler.  For these two transaction-crazy owners, it seems, a big deal with big risks is much better than spending the deadline on the sidelines.

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.