2012 is about to draw to a close. For the Seattle Mariners, this meant addressing their biggest flaw from the last couple of seasons, lack of offense, to stay competitive in the A.L West. The Mariners were linked to every available bat it seems at the Winter Meetings but left with only one signing: Jason Bay. Striking out in the free agent market, Seattle once again looked to bolster their roster with a trade. Last night, a deal was struck: starting pitcher Jason Vargas was sent to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Kendrys Morales.
Morales adds much need pop to the middle of the order. In 2009, Morales hit 34 HR and 108 RBI for the Angels while hitting .306. Injury cut short his 2010 and made him miss 2011, but he bounced back in 2012. Morales proved he still had power bashing 22 HR and 73 RBI while hitting .273. If he been on Seattle in 2012, those numbers would’ve lead the Mariners in HR and AVG, and he was only 13 back of Kyle Seager for the team RBI lead. Kendrys can play both 1B and DH giving the Mariners a couple of options. Jesus Montero, now with the departure of Miguel Olivo, will probably get more time at C than DH opening up the DH spot for Morales. This team wasn’t going to be any better without adding pop to the middle of the order, and Morales fills that hole.
But, once again, Seattle had to take from their strength: starting pitching. In the last two seasons, the Mariners have traded Erik Bedard, Doug Fister, Michael Pineda, and now Vargas. Vargas developed in the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation behind King Felix. He led the Mariners in victories going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA. Seattle’s rotation is now King Felix and some question marks. I assume Hisashi Iwakuma will take over the No. 2 spot after an impressive second half of the season in the rotation. Blake Beavan (11-11, 4.43), another starter who had a nice second half, would be the No. 3 going into Spring Training. After that, it looks like the Mariners are going to tap into their young talent to fill out the rotation, possibly the highly touted arms of Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker.
The Mariners need Morales; that can’t be argued. But, in the process, they strengthened a division rival who is already ahead of them. The Angels finished ahead of Seattle in the standings and added the top free agent of the off season, Josh Hamilton. Starting pitching took a hit for Anaheim: they had lost Ervin Santana, Zach Greinke, and Dan Haren. Sometimes trades benefit both teams, but the Mariners paid a high price to get a much needed bat. In Vargas, the Angels get a starting pitcher who has topped 190 IP in the last three seasons. While not on the level of a Greinke or a Haren, Vargas is a proven starter who has proved himself in the A.L. West. Meanwhile, Seattle has to replace the 200 IP that Vargas filled. The Mariners’ youth has been highly rated; they will need to come through in the rotation if the Mariners are going to continue to move forward in 2013.