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Mariners, Angels Fill Need With Old Fashion TradePosted on December 19, 2012 at 09:13 PM.
In what is becoming an increasingly rare moment, a trade was strictly about baseball. The Mariners and Angels agreed to swap starting pitching Jason Vargas for first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales in a deal that filled needs for both teams. The deal wasnít about money, rebuilding, or anything other than improving each team. While neither team is getting a superstar, the deal makes sense and improves both sides in multiple ways.
The Seattle Mariners have been shopping for offense all winter. General Manager Jack Zduriencik talked at the Winter Meetings about that being the goal, but at a price that would benefit the team. Theyíve been active on the free agent market, meeting with Josh Hamilton, at least talking about free agents like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Zduriencik took a chance on Jason Bay rebounding, but he hasnít been able to find the right match. Kendrys Morales does fit his needs.
After three underwhelming brief stints in the Major Leagues, Morales finally broke out in 2009 by hitting .305/.355/.569 with 43 doubles, 3 triples, 34 home runs, and 108 RBI. He finished fifth in the MVP Award voting and looked like he was following up that season with another elite level year. But, he landed awkwardly on home plate as he was about to celebrate a walk off home run against the Seattle Mariners on May 29th 2010. That was the last Morales was seen on a Major League field until this season.
Morales made a solid return in 2012, playing in 134 games for the Angels. Serving mostly as the designated hitter (92 games) and filling in at first base when Albert Pujols needed a day off, Morales hit .273/.320/.468 with 26 doubles, 22 home runs, and 73 RBI. Although his June and July were poor, he found his power in August when he posted his best overall month, hitting .290/.330/.570 with 7 doubles and 7 home runs in 100 at bats. He followed that up with an 8 double, 4 home run September.
A switch-hitter entering his age 30 season, Morales fits the Mariners need for an experienced hitter who can hit home runs. Depending on what the Mariners want to do with Justin Smoak, Morales will either be the starting first baseman or the designated hitter. Most likely, he is their first baseman and cleanup hitter. How big of an upgrade does he represent? His comeback season of 2012 would have led the Mariners in every slash line category as well as home runs. Thatís an indictment of how poor the Marinersí offense was, but Zduriencik does upgrade them for 2013.
Also factor in that during his only full season as first baseman, he compiled a 7.2 UZR and an 8 DRS rating, making him an above average defensive first baseman.
The price of Jason Vargas is fair. Vargas has been an underrated source of better than league average innings for the past three seasons, but he is a flyball pitcher who benefitted from Safeco Field. With the fences being moved in for the 2013 season, Vargas figured to have more of a rough go of it in 2013. With the Marinersí farm system just about ready to give them a few elite Major League ready prospects, a pitcher was expendable. Vargas was the perfect choice.
With Morales saying he is finally completely healthy, the Mariners figure to get an above average power hitter in their punchless lineup. He doesnít walk much and he does strike out about 18 percent of the time, but a reasonable projection of .280/.330/.480 with 25 doubles and 25 home runs would be a tremendous upgrade. Morales can be a free agent at the end of the season, but Vargas is in the same position. The Mariners are betting that he is healthy and motivated in 2013. It is a smart bet and one that makes them better. They still need more offense, but Kendrys Morales is exactly the type of player the Mariners have lacked for quite a few seasons.
The Angels fill a need for the rotation as Vargas figures to be the fourth starter in a rotation that features Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Tommy Hanson, and Joe Blanton. The Angels made the splash of the Josh Hamilton signing and were left with a surplus of hitters. Morales didnít have a position with Pujols still an above average first baseman and the Angels having a plethora of outfielder. That made him expendable and the right price for a left handed pitcher who has a three year average of 204 innings pitched, 8.7 H/9, 2.5 BB/9, 5.7 K/9, and a 3.96 ERA.
Vargas is a flyball pitcher, but he is one who has decreased his flyball percentage in each of the past three seasons. Last season, he posted a fly ball rate of 40.5 percent, 4 percent lower than his career average. That didnít stop his home runs allowed total from increasing for the past three seasons all the way up to 35 long balls allowed in 2012. But, Vargas moves to Anaheim, a stadium that does favor pitchers. And, he will have an elite defensive outfield behind him.
Heíll have that because of this trade. With Morales in Seattle, Mark Trumbo can now settle into the DH role, while Peter Bourjos gets a starting job again. With an outfield of Mike Trout, Bourjos, and Josh Hamilton, Vargas and the rest of the pitching staff will be well supported. That, actually, is one of the best aspects of this trade for the Angels. Peter Bourjos was swallowed up in the Mike Trout machine last season, but Bourjos is the best defensive center fielder--by a wide margin--in Major League Baseball. Having him back in the lineup full time with Mike Trout--perhaps the number two defensive center fielder in the sport--and Hamilton will help with run prevention. The talk of the Angels having Pujols, Trout, and Hamilton in the lineup is great, but their defense got a major upgrade because the moves allows Mike Trumbo to DH and creates the opening for Bourjos.
Vargas gives the Angels a dependable 200 innings, something that is necessary considering that they only had two pitchers top 180 innings pitched last season. They do have a talented bullpen, but it was exposed quite often last season. With some questions about Tommy Hanson and perhaps Joe Blanton, Vargasí 200 innings are quite an asset. In seven career starts in Anaheim--a small sample size--Vargas has a 2.27 ERA with 5 home runs and 8 walks allowed in 43 innings. Moving from Seattle to Los Angeles doesnít figure to impact Vargas, which makes him a dependable asset for the Angels.
Both clubs address their needs at a reasonable cost. The Mariners needed a bat and add a switch hitting, good fielding first baseman who should hit at least 20 home runs. The Angels get a dependable, underrated starting pitcher to complete their rotation and allow Garrett Richards to be insurance rather than a necessity.
The old fashion trade isnít dead after all.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
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