Samurai Acquire Their Sword

Hours before the trade deadline, The Minneapolis Millers and China Grove Samurai shocked the baseball world for a second straight season. Just 13 months after agreeing to a blockbuster deal that sent several top prospects to Minneapolis for long-time ace Augusto Altragracia, the 52-45 Samurai have landed arguably the league’s best hitter in Designated Hitter Jayson Philmon.

The two teams were able to come to an agreement after Philmon’s agent made it clear that the long-time Millers star preferred to be traded, and sources close to the organization said there were ‘obvious signs of tension’ between Manager Dominic Sackett and Philmon. This led to Philmon and his agent approaching the team three weeks ago, amidst a 3-12 stretch for the Millers, and asking to be traded to a contender.

“They felt Philmon was going to opt out of his contract, and weren’t sure if he’d be willing to even negotiate an extension in the off-season,” CBL Insider Anthony Sanders says via video call. “With the team struggling of late, it made sense to move him if they could get the right package of players.”

In exchange for Philmon (and enough cash to pay his remaining salary for the season) the Samurai gave up three minor league prospects.

SP Kevin Leibowitz
CL Gil Giddings
SS/3B Cristian Rivera
SP Kevin Leibowitz

The obvious centerpiece to the deal, Leibowtiz is an 18-year-old right hander who continues to impress scouts with each passing outing. The former 7th round pick is in his third professional season and posted a 1.96 ERA in 7 starts in the ASL before earning a promotion to Low A ball.

Current OSA Ranking: #9 Overall Prospect
#1 Prospect in China Grove System

OSA Scouting Report:
18-year-old right-handed pitcher Kevin Leibowitz is from Richland, Washington. He throws five pitches, with his bread and butter pitch a decent fastball. His big stuff gets people’s attention, and he combines that with average control. Leibowitz is projected to have the stuff talent needed to be a #1.

CL Gil Giddings

A flamethrowing future closer, the 18-year-old former 4th round pick has been great across two levels this season, and scouts continue to be impressed with his fastball/curveball combination and how much it’s improved since being drafted.

Current OSA Ranking: Unranked Nationally
#10 Prospect in China Grove System

OSA Scouting Report:
Lean and Athletic, Gil Giddings hails from Cumberland, Maine and was chosen 48th overall in 2040. He throws three pitches, with his bread and butter pitch a plus fastball. His strike throwing ability and movement of his pitches will limit the long ball and he has the stuff to generate swings and misses. Giddings has the talent to be a top reliever, even a future closer.

SS/3B Cristian Rivera

Signed for a $1.72 million bonus in October of 2039 as an International Amateur Signing. Currently in his first professional season, hitting .319 in 18 games in the ASL. Scouts praise his natural defensive instincts and project him to stay at shortstop long-term.

Current OSA Ranking: Unranked Nationally
#30 Prospect in China Grove System

OSA Scouting Report:
Dominican third baseman Cristian Rivera was born in Monte Cristi. He grades out as an elite fielder as a third baseman. He excels on the basepaths. He projects to be solid at working the count and draw 40 walks each year. Rivera is projected to fill an injury replacement or reserve role in the majors as a below average third baseman.

And the prize of the deal, of course, is the Samurai’s acquisition of one of the league’s historically great hitters. 38 players were drafted ahead of Jayson Philmon in the 2025 draft, which means there were 38 mistakes before Erie called his name.

Debuting in the 2030 season, Philmon spent 4 and a half seasons in Colorado, hitting .305/.388/.493. The Millers acquired Philmon during the 2034 season, and he instantly became their best offensive player. Over essentially 7 full seasons, Philmon hit .346/.435/.621 for the Millers with 276 home runs. He won three MVP awards, and was a major factor in the Millers back-to-back Premier Cup titles in 2035 and 2036.

He’s showing no signs of slowing down, and the Samurai have created a new murderer’s row of Ron Chadsey, Philmon and Roland Pryzbylewski in the middle of that lineup.

“The HL playoffs are going to be as entertaining as I can remember,” one executive said upon hearing news of the deal. “The only way someone is going to one-up this deal is if they can pry Joe Busam from Tabasco.”

The betting money is on Philmon being this deadline’s biggest acquisition, which might move the Premier Cup smart money heavily to China Grove.

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