Well, this could certainly count as a major move by the Mariners on the trade front. They just shipped left-handed starter Jason Vargas to the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales.
At first glance, this move fills a need for both teams.
The Mariners have wanted a veteran 1B/DH for a while now and picked one up in Morales, 29, who would not have been so available before the Angels acquired Josh Hamilton.
Do I like this move? Yes, I do.
The Mariners needed another bat and Morales is potentially an upgrade over everybody they have if he resumes the form he had prior to seriously breaking his leg in a game against the Mariners a few years ago. Morales hit .273 in his comeback year with 22 homers and 73 RBI and an OPS of .787, easily better than any Mariners full-timer.
“We have been focused on adding offense this off-season, and feel that Kendrys will be a middle-of-the-order bat for us,” Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said in a release. “He’s a switch-hitter with power who has played, and hit, in the AL West. He’s familiar with the teams and parks and is a proven run-producer. We hate to part with Jason, and really appreciate everything he’s done for us, but we are in a situation where we had to give up talent to acquire talent.”
While Vargas was technically the team’s No. 2 starter, the decision to move in the fences at Safeco Field was a big concern of mine in regards to him. One look at his home/road splits shows Vargas, 29, allowed 26 homers on the road, only nine at home. Would the new fence alignment have hurt his overall numbers by making Safeco less “safe” for him?
Quite possibly. Angel Stadium is a pitcher-friendly place and he should be OK there as a result. So, this works for both teams, since the Angels needed to acquire more pitching.
The contract status of both is roughly the same, since each player is entering his final year of eligibility for arbitration. Morales earned $2.975 million,so he’ll likely come it at just under $6 million.
Vargas was at 4.85 million, so he’s looking at a heftier pay increase and possibly a long-term deal.
As for what this means for Justin Smoak, he still has a Class AAA option left. He can also come into spring training and force his way on to the team, since I doubt the Mariners have given up on him. It will be interesting to see whether the Mariners explore an extension with Morales right away.