Looking to shore up areas of weakness, the Mariners and Angels agreed to trade from areas of strength or semi-strength. Seattle has shipped pitcher Jason Vargas to Los Angeles for first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales. The Mariners clearly needed a bat and the Angels needed a back-end starting pitcher, so it makes sense that this trade happened. Still, the players involved in this deal are hardly going to wash away the dirty taste in the mouths of fans from both camps wanting a big answer to their problems.
Vargas is an interesting player in that he seems to be overrated based on traditional numbers (ERA, maybe even wins), but he’s also probably underrated by the nerdy stats we prefer (K/9 rate, WAR) because he does have the ability to shoulder a lot of innings and stay healthy. Vargas’ innings totals have gone from 192 2/3 in 2010 to 201 in 2011 and 217 1/3 last season. In 2012 he wound up with a 3.85 ERA, 4.69 FIP, and 4.45 xFIP. He struck out 5.84/9 and walked just 2.28/9.
Morales, like Vargas, is a flawed player who still has some value. After having a big 2009 (.387 wOBA, 3.4 WAR), the now 29-year-old suffered a season-ending injury celebrating in 2010 and didn’t return until last season. Morales hit .273/.320/.467 with 22 homers and played a credible first base along the way. Morales has never been a big drawer of walks, but he’ll need to be a bit more patient to adequately fill the role that he must. As a first baseman and DH, it’s pretty important to succeed at the plate, and getting on base is an enormous part of that equation. A few more walks would go a long way, and Morales’ power has to be alluring to a Mariners team that has almost none.
I’ve seen fans claiming this deal was a bargain, and the results on which team is getting the better end of things have been mixed. In truth, I think it’s more likely that this deal is fair for both parties. Vargas can chew up innings at the back end of a solid Angels rotation, while Morales offers some pop and potential at the plate as he seeks to regain his pre-injury form. As I mentioned up top, both teams are doing well enough in the areas they dealt from that it makes sense to even out the rosters. We’ll of course have to see how things pan out, but I like this just fine for both franchises.