Ever since the Jackson Hammerheads lost 3B Kim Fleitas in the expansion draft, team owner/whiz-kid GM Steven Butler has been a man on a mission. Butler, who has consistently argued that Fleitas was mistakenly left exposed in the draft, has tried everything to get Fleitas back into the fold. According to sources, Butler had bombarded the New Orleans Sazeracs, the team that picked Fleitas, with trade proposals on a near-daily basis. “When I want something, I keep going until I get it,” said Butler.
When the Hammerheads acquired 3B Max Ortiz from the California Sharks last weekend, it was widely seen around the league as an acknowledgement of defeat in Butler’s relentless pursuit of a reunion with Fleitas. But on draft day, the Hammerheads and Sazeracs announced a surprising deal: Fleitas is coming home to Jackson, while RF Alex Jaramillo heads down to the Big Easy.
“Victory is mine!” crowed Butler. “It took a while, but I got my guy back.”
It’s not hard to see why Butler was so eager to get Fleitas back. The 26-year-old third sacker hit .287 with 17 homers and 130 RBI last season, and was generally acknowledged as one of the league’s best at the hot corner, despite a shaky reputation with the glove. “Kim’s a pretty quiet guy, but he’s definitely one of our team leaders,” said Hammerheads 2B Homer Righter. “One of those guys who shows up every day, does his job and does it well. I’m thrilled that he’s back.”
Few in the Jackson clubhouse had a similarly glowing assessment of Jaramillo. The 26-year-old slugger, picked up from the Knoxville Smokies last season in the infamous Eddie Battin deal, put up disappointing numbers with the Heads, hitting .258 with 16 dingers. In addition, he was an unpopular figure in the clubhouse, quickly earning a reputation for being moody and selfish. It didn’t help matters that he was acquired for the hugely popular Battin, or that he got hurt shortly after arriving in Jackson and wound up spending over a month on the DL amid accusations of malingering.
“This is a great deal all around,” said one Jackson player. “We get Kim back, which is a plus for us, and we get rid of Jaramillo, which is basically addition by subtraction. Win-win.”
The Sazeracs are banking on a return to form for Jaramillo in an environment that might be a better fit. Jackson has made a point of de-emphasizing power, a smart decision given the cavernous dimensions of Cash Carter Downs. New Orleans has a more longball-friendly park, and they’re looking to Jaramillo to be a big bopper in the heart of their order.
“There’s a thing called talent! We don’t have it,” said Sazeracs manager George Knox. “Alex is a naturally talented guy, and this is a place where I think we can make the most of it.”
Asked if he was concerned about the negative reports out of Jackson about Jaramillo, Knox replied, “You can’t go through life thinking everyone you meet will let you down. Because if you do, a very bad thing will happen. You’ll end up like me.”
Now that Jackson has their old third baseman back, are they done dealing ahead of the season? “No comment on that,” Butler said with a laugh. “I’m a fishing guy, so I’ve always got my line in the water. ”