mariners

Morales for Vargas: Reviewing Seattle Mariners trade

M’s find another bat for 2013

With the trade of Jason Vargas to the Los Angeles Angels for Kendrys Morales, the Mariners have made their biggest splash of the offseason.

Both players are 29 years old and set to be free agents in 2014. But they also fill big needs for their news teams. This is a win-win for everyone.

And it was certainly the right move for Seattle.

Gaining Kendrys Morales

After many long years, Seattle has finally solidified the first base position.

Not since Richie Sexon have the Mariners had a reliable Major League first baseman. They thought they were acquiring that with Justin Smoak, but after three disappointing seasons he’s been a bust.

Morales has prototypical first baseman power, slugging 67 home runs and 76 doubles over his last three seasons.

The switch-hitter is a career .281/.331/.491 hitter. In order to keep him healthy—Morales broke a leg in 2010 and missed all of the 2011 season—the Mariners will establish a rotation between first and DH.

As a first baseman Morales has been solid defensively, owning a 20.1 career UZR.

Morales will be a solid bat beyond Montero (Photo: Steven Bisig / USA Today)

Morales will be a solid bat beyond Montero (Photo: Steven Bisig / USA Today)

The 29-year-old will slot in nicely in the middle of the Mariners order. Hitting fourth makes the most sense, so Morales can provide vital protection for Jesus Montero.

To really make this deal work, Seattle needs to pursue an extension with its new acquisition. They have no long term fixes at first and Morales will be a free agent in 2014.

Hashing out a new deal now would make the most sense—and secure a strong offensive presence for the future.

Losing Jason Vargas

It was obvious Vargas never fit into Seattle’s long term plans.

So far this offseason, the M’s have extended Hisashi Iwakuma, discussed extending Felix Hernandez for life and showed no intentions towards trading one of the big three (Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker). Yet they had no discussions of keeping Vargas around.

When an opportunity came to move Vargas, Seattle pounced.

Vargas was solid last season, posting a 3.85 ERA in 217.1 innings pitched. But the pitcher was much better at home (2.74 ERA) than away (4.78 ERA).

The left-hander is a fly ball pitcher, living and dying by his changeup. When a team’s No. 2 pitcher has a 4.45 xFIP—and the dimensions of its park is becoming more hitter friendly—it’s time to cut ties.

Moving forward, the Mariners still retain five starters from last season with Big League experience. And it wouldn’t be surprising to see Paxton and Hultzen get an opportunity to compete for a roster spot come Spring Training.

That’s excluding the number of high-upside options still on the market—Francisco Liriano, Jair Jurrjens, Roy Oswalt and Shaun Marcum to name a few.

Seattle’s rotation will most likely take a hit in 2013—especially from a lack of innings—but it shouldn’t leave an ill-effects from 2014 and beyond.

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