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Angels trade Kendrys Morales to Mariners for Jason Vargas

Dec 19, 2012, 5:14 PM EDT

morales getty Getty Images

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has been searching for rotation help and shopping extra bats, and reports that he’s found a fit by trading first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales to the Mariners for left-hander Jason Vargas.

It’s a rare deal between division rivals, but the Mariners have whiffed on several free agent hitting targets and certainly need more quality bats in a lineup that ranked dead last among AL teams in scoring. After missing most of 2010 and all of 2011 with a broken ankle Morales bounced back to stay healthy and hit .273 with 22 homers and a .787 OPS in 134 games. The switch-hitter is eligible for free agency next offseason, so it’s a short-term pickup for Seattle.

Vargas has been a solid innings-eater for the Mariners during the past three seasons, throwing 217, 201, and 193 innings with a 3.96 ERA. Some of that is thanks to a pitcher-friendly home ballpark–from 2010-2012 he had a 3.46 ERA in Seattle and a 4.53 ERA on the road. Of course, the Angels’ ballpark is pitcher-friendly too, as a fly-ball pitcher Vargas will benefit from their strong outfield defense, and they’d probably take 200 innings of a four-something ERA from him happily. Vargas, like Morales, is eligible for free agency next offseason.

Good but not great first baseman/designated hitter for good but not great starting pitcher, both with one season of team control remaining. Seems pretty fair and fills obvious needs for both teams involved, which helps explain the willingness to trade within the division.

  1. losangelesfan - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    Nice move. This works well for both teams.

  2. IdahoMariner - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    he broke that ankle jumping on home plate after hitting a walk-off grand slam against the mariners, as I recall. i hope somewhere in there is some synchronicity or circularity or karma or something that allows him to hit some walk-offs for us…. without any further damage to his poor ankle.

  3. cadillacjosh - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Borjous\Trout\Hamilton or Trumbo. I love it. i’d prefer to have Hamilton DH, keep him young.

    • proudlycanadian - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:35 PM

      Plus Vernon!

    • thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      Why play the (far) lesser defender? As it stands now the Halos have 3 CFs in their OF. Just moving Hamilton off of center (and next to the outstanding Borjous) should help preserve his body.

  4. 13arod - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    first of all dont trade with a team in your divison second of all vargas is good but should have got more for trading one of their star players

    • thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:39 PM

      1. Explain to me why teams shouldn’t trade inside the division.
      2. Jason Vargas is not good.
      3. Who is the star player here?

      • youknowwhatsgoodforshoulderpain - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:12 PM

        Vargas was serviceable last year. Had a nearly identical season compared to CJ Wilson, actually. He may not be GREAT, but he’s fairly GOOD.

      • thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:00 PM

        ERA- and FIP- over 100 the past two seasons. This is below average. He is a below-average MLB starter that pitched over 200 innings on some bad Mariners teams. I consider good to mean “above-average”.

      • thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:01 PM

        And by nearly identical, do you mean worse by almost every measure?

    • magicrat13 - Dec 20, 2012 at 7:50 AM

      yeah…like maybe they could have traded vargas to the nationals for harper….lol

  5. thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    So the Mariners now have three players (Montero, Jaso, Morales) that are best suited for DH

    • tashkalucy - Dec 20, 2012 at 12:24 AM

      The Mariners are an Eric Wedge team – Mark Shapiro’s partner. Baseball geniuses….just ask them.

      Of course they have a lot of DH’s – defense doesn’t matter. And they are trained to hit a lot of foul balls as their most exciting offensive play is coaxing a walk. Look at the multiple RISP BA’s – Indians and Mariners at the bottom or near the bottom in the AL in just about every category.

      So you guys think Morales is going to help the offense, right? Lucky the man is in his walk year. By the time Wedgie and his coaches are done with the guy, he won’t remember how to hit anymore – like a couple dozen other players.

  6. danucks604 - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    So much for Justin Smoak

    • jwbiii - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:09 PM

      Smoak has an option left. Mike Carp doesn’t. Carp may be coming soon to a waiver wire near you.

    • youknowwhatsgoodforshoulderpain - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:13 PM

      Smoak is terrible. I was ecstatic when the Rangers traded him away!

      • deathmonkey41 - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:19 PM

        He was centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade, wasn’t he? I thought Jack Zduriencik backed out on the Yankees because he thought Smoak was better than Montero.

  7. fhuizar - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    Another Long Beach State Dirtbag in the rotation

    • ireportyoudecide - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:07 PM

      Now trade for Tulo and Longo and put the whole gang back together.

  8. vegagreenleaf - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    As a Mariners fan, I like this move. We have a ton of pitching and little offense. A few years ago, Morales was one of the next superstars in the making. Vargas will never be a top tier pitcher.

    • fhuizar - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:51 PM

      Angels dont need him to be a top teir pitcher. They need CJ to step up for sure. I like Vargas and has pitcher really well in Angel Stadium.

  9. Carl Hancock - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    I’ll always remember Morales for that injury. Strangest on field injury I’ve ever seen.

    • yahmule - Dec 20, 2012 at 12:46 AM

      Mine would be seeing Steve Yeager take a Bill Russell bat shard in the throat while he was waiting in the on-deck circle. It nearly killed the guy and was the reason behind the invention of the catcher throat protector that quickly became a standard piece of the tools of ignorance.

  10. bigdinla - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    To bad, I was hoping Atlanta would trade a pitcher for Trumbo.

  11. bennoj - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    I would not be surprised if Montero spends most, if not all, of next year in Tacoma learning to play adequate 1st base.

    • denny65 - Dec 20, 2012 at 12:15 AM

      Agree. Montero is certainly not a catcher, and to watch him when he runs–he’s a “prancer,” always up on the balls of his feet–one has to question his athletic ability.

      I anticipate he’ll spend considerable time at Tacoma in ’13, learning first base. John Jason is an underrated catcher and will do fine behind the plate for the Mariners.

      • yahmule - Dec 20, 2012 at 12:48 AM

        I double dog dare you to call him a “prancer” to his face.

  12. Reflex - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Good move. Kind of curious about Morales in RF, he played the position for the Angel’s a few years back, but I don’t know how well. His ankle should be healed up enough by now, and he’s only 29, but it would maximize the big bats in thier lineup given that Smoak showed signs of life in the second half last year.

    • fhuizar - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:36 PM

      The guy had a very bad leg/ankle injury. He didnt look too mobile last yr and barely ran well on the bases. I doubt he plays RF.

      • Reflex - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:42 PM

        I doubt it too, honestly, but I was wondering. Since he’s only signed for a year I don’t think they should ditch Smoak as that just leaves them with a hole come 2014. Perhaps this will just become some sort of 1B/DH/C rotation or something with Smoak/Jaso/Montero/Morales.

  13. shawnuel - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:19 PM

    Jaso/Montero most of the catching, Smoak most time at 1B and Morales most time at DH. Considering health and platoon splits, this should turn out fairly equitably.

    • thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 8:06 PM

      Hopefully either Jaso or Montero can learn how to catch.

  14. kappy32 - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    Good trade here for both teams. It’s obvious the Angels don’t see Morales as part of their future & they needed pitching. Due to Vargas playing in a small market, on a bad team, and slotted behind Felix Hernandez, he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Vargas is a very good, sinker / change, ground ball pitcher & had he played in a bigger market, he would have more notoriety & probably be paid pretty highly. As for Morales, he’s not done just yet. He showed that he still has some game left & most importantly, he showed he can stay healthy & that the ankle is behind him. When a player suffers a catastrophic injury, it normally tales one full season for the player to return to form. It happens in every sport & baseball is no different. I still think the M’s are a few more players away from making some noise, especially with Murderers’ Row in their division, but this is one of those trades involving low-level players that could have big impacts for both teams. Good job, good trade.

    • thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 8:01 PM

      By what measure is Jason Vargas very good? And he is most definitely NOT a groundball pitcher. In 2012, he posted his highest GB% and finished with the 17th-worst GB% amongst all qualified starters in the MLB.

  15. mungman69 - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    Just don’t hit any walk off homers.

  16. kappy32 - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:46 PM


    Sabermetrics for pitchers is a bad way to determine how good they are. It’s almost as stupid as comparing two different players at two different positions using WAR. I haven’t yet to find a saber-stat that is more telling of a pitcher’s production than the “old, archaic” ERA & WHIP.

    • thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 7:56 PM

      Sorry you feel this way. Why should I not believe in DIPS theory? Also, I provided ERA, just with park and league adjustments (less than 100 is that percentage better than league avg. ERA; over 100 is that percentage worse than league avg. ERA). I would hardly classify this as sabermetrics.

      You do realize that WAR’s have positional adjustments, right? If you don’t agree with them, create your own WAR with your own positional adjustments. Just be consistent and explain your reasoning.

    • cktai - Dec 19, 2012 at 11:28 PM

      You may not believe in sabermetrics, but surely the fact that Vargas is one of only 16 pitchers to give away more flyballs than groundballs should tell you that he is not a groundball pitcher? That’s hardly advanced statistics.

  17. danucks604 - Dec 19, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    This is a good trade for both teams because it fits their needs but I think the Mariners win this trade because Morales has the potential to put up all-star numbers, where as Vargas has always been and always will be a middle of the rotation starter. If it weren’t for Morales’ injury this trade would have never happened.

    • thereisaparty - Dec 19, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      Middle of what rotation? He is at best a back-end starter for a first-division team

      • danucks604 - Dec 20, 2012 at 5:53 AM

        He’s a 3rd or 4th starter on almost any team, and as it stands right now he’s the 3rd starter for the Halos.. Now if he played for the Blue Jays he’d be a back-end starter.

  18. mazblast - Dec 19, 2012 at 11:53 PM

    In my opinion, the deal has more upside for the Mariners than for the Angels. However, the teams weren’t looking at upside, they were looking at what each player can give now.

    Good trade for both teams. Deal from strength to fill need, the old-fashioned approach.

  19. beastmode5150 - Dec 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    Thanks Angels, better player for half the money.

  20. temporarilyexiled - Dec 20, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    You have to admit, regardless of eating dead money, if the Angels can now also move Vernon Wells (perhaps for more pitching), the team will have done quite the makeover. Impressive stuff.

  21. swu32733 - Dec 20, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    Trader Jack got his lunch handed to him. Vargas was the number two pitcher and a much better pitcher than people are giving him credit for. I guess Felix will go next for some guy batting .270 or so. We also cleaned up on the Fister trade.

  22. beastmode5150 - Dec 21, 2012 at 6:50 PM

    Swu, no. He’s actually worse than he’s given credit for. He gave up 7 homers at Safeco and 27 on the road.

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