Friday, December 21, 2012

Mariners Land Morales in Exchange for Vargas

On Wednesday, the Mariners completed a trade that filled (to a certain extent) an area of need. The Mariners traded Jason Vargas to the Angels in exchange for Kendrys Morales, a 1B/DH type player. Despite the fact that Justin Smoak holds down first base currently for the Mariners and the fact that there is a log-jam at the designated hitter position, Jack Zduriencik made the trade nonetheless. However, even with a plethora of players at these positions, I think it was a great trade as the Mariners lost value in a position they have talent in and gained value in a position where they didn't have much value in. Here are some other reasons why I believe this trade was exceptional.

Jason Vargas looks to do the same thing in LA as he did in Seattle: eat up innings.
Otto Greule Jr/AP

First of all, lets start with the piece the Mariners lost in this trade. Jason Vargas has been a very good pitcher for the Mariners over the past couple of years and has eaten up a ton of innings. He is mainly a fly-ball pitcher and Safeco Field suited him very well. I think that the pitchers park down in Anaheim will do the exact same for Vargas and he will have some success with the Angels. However, I think the LA heat could be a factor and in the end it could lead to the demise of Jason Vargas next year. The Angels needed an inning eater and they got exactly what they wanted in Vargas. The Mariners, as everybody knows, have a surplus of pitching talent in the minor leagues so the idea of trading Vargas sounded much better because of this surplus. Vargas' contract this year calls for four million more dollars then Morales' does, another reason why I like this trade. It frees up even more money for the Mariners to spend on other player's contracts. Trading within the division is risky at times, but both general managers were fine with it as both players just have a year remaining on their respective contracts. Also, the Mariners don't really pose a threat to the Angels this year, making the trade even easier for Jerry DiPoto, the GM of the Angels. Now lets get to why this trade was attractive from the Mariner's point of view.

Kendrys Morales looks to provide the Mariners with something they haven't had a lot of lately, that thing they call offense.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports

Kendrys Morales is well known for his injury he sustained while celebrating after hitting a walk-off grand slam against the Mariners in 2010. Morales was headed for a big season in 2010 as he was projected to hit for over 110 RBI and 30 HR with an average close to .300. However, this injury (a broken his leg) suddenly ended his season. Morales missed all of the 2011 season, but was working hard in rehab. He came back last year in the 2012 season and had a .273 average while hitting for 22 HR and 73 RBI. Morales' best months in the season were in August and September so I'm sure Zduriencik was pleased to see this. With this move, the Mariners add a hitter that has huge potential and can fit in nicely right in the middle of the lineup. Morales said he feels 100% now and the best he has felt since his injury. However, with this acquisition, the Mariners now have a log-jam at the 1B and DH positions. With Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero/John Jaso, and Morales all in the mix for two positions, there will be some sorting out to do in spring training, but that's what spring training is for. Montero and Jaso will most likely switch off at catcher until Zunino gets called up to the big leagues while it is now clear that it is do or die time for Justin Smoak. Morales will put pressure on Smoak to perform and a little positional competition doesn't hurt anybody. Only the best will come out of this competition. It is still to be seen what the Mariners will do with Morales this season. They could try and sign him to an extension, trade him during the season, or could let him go as a free agent. It will largely have to do with the performance that Morales puts up this season. Scott Boras is his agent so it would be very hard to sign Morales to an extension during the season.

In the end, I think this trade was very good for both teams, but I think the Mariners will eventually get the better side of the deal. Morales has shown his skills before and has proven to be a solid hitter. The Mariners desperately need offense and Morales provides the team with some power hitting. Pitching is an area of strength so Vargas was relatively easily to let go of. This move does not by any means restrict the Mariners from making other moves for power bats. It actually makes the Mariners look more intriguing to free agent hitters as Morales adds some strength and protection to the lineup. Some areas of need that Jack Zduriencik still needs to fill are a power bat, a veteran pitcher, and possibly a lead-off hitter. Mihael Bourn looks intriguing for the Mariners and Joe Saunders could be a lefty answer to the need for a veteran pitcher. Nick Swisher is a very nice option for the Mariners who could fit in nicely with Morales in the lineup, but the Mariners haven't been rumored to be looking at him in-depth. Look for Zduriencik to make some more moves in the coming weeks, via either trade or free agency. No matter what, I think the Mariners will make the necessary moves in order to obtain a winning record in the upcoming season. Jack Zduriencik only wants the best for the Mariners organization and trust me, he can hear the fans crying for a competitive team. This drives him everyday to improve the Seattle Mariners.

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