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.
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.”
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.”
In a move designed to shake up their floundering bullpen, the Jacksonville Dragons demoted reliever Jack Jacques and called up the highly gifted but highly erratic prospect John Longroofan. Jacques has struggled mightily for the Dragons, pitching to an 18.56 ERA over 5 1/3 innings. “I wanted to line them all up against the wall and shoot ’em,” Dragons manager Harlan Davidson said of his relief corps. “But they told me I can’t, so instead I’ll replace ’em one by one until we fix this.”
The 20-year-old Longroofan comes with a long frame (he stands 6’11”) and a longer list of character questions. His amateur and professional career has been dotted with numerous speeding tickets, wild parties, alcohol-fueled incidents, and sexual misconduct allegations. His brief stay in the Boston Red Sox organization ended after he was allegedly caught in flagrante delicto with the manager’s daughter. He is considered a promising if raw talent.
“Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeres Roofie!” Longroofan tweeted upon receiving word of the call-up. “Jax better watch out, cuz Im gonna be on [expletive] patrol,” he added, including a vulgar reference to the female anatomy. He then tweeted a picture of a sports car with a pair of female legs sticking out the passenger window, with the caption “If the Porsh is rockin dont cum knockin.”
“Jesus Almighty,” said Davidson when informed of Longroofan’s introductory tweetstorm. “Well, if he can get people out, that’s what matters. I don’t have any daughters, so I’m not worried.”