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Seattle Mariners Win Out in the Kendrys Morales-for-Jason Vargas Trade

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 15:  Designated hitter Kendrys Morales #8 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim bats against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Royals defeated the Angels 3-2.  (Photo by Tim Umphrey/Getty Images)
Tim Umphrey/Getty Images
Pete DymeckAnalyst IDecember 20, 2012

The big news from yesterday stemmed from a one-for-one swap between A.L. West foes the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners. In the deal, the Mariners walk away with a potential 25-plus HR hitter in Kendrys Morales while the Angels shore up their rotation with lefty Jason Vargas.

In a perfect world, this deal makes perfect sense for all parties involved. 

At home, only three clubs fared worse than the Seattle Mariners in home-run hitting. Last season, Seattle struggled with the long ball, hitting only 56 at SafeCo Field in 81 games. From 2008 through 2011, the Mariners averaged just 56.75 HR at home in each individual season. Whether the low HR total stems from a lack of quality sluggers or the fact that SafeCo Field has an immense outfield can be debated.

Either way, the production has lacked and it shows in the run production, or lack thereof from the Mariners at home. Since 2008, the Mariners have averaged a total of 282.2 total runs scored over the course of their 81 home games each season. This turns into an average of roughly 3.5 runs per game. In 2010 and 2012, the Mariners scored the fewest runs at home in all of baseball.

In order to address their desire to score more runs, the folks in Seattle are shortening the distance between home plate and the outfield walls. They also traded for an up-and-coming slugger with vast HR potential in Jesus Montero last year.

Now, the M's have brought in Kendrys Morales, a guy coming off of a 34-HR season in 2009 before shortening his 2010 season by breaking his leg celebrating a walk-off victory. Morales proceeded to miss all of 2011 and some of 2012 from his broken leg in 2010. 

 

Morales returned last year to hit 22 HR in 484 AB with a .273 AVG and .787 OPS. Last season, Morales had a WAR of 1.8, but in 2009, his breakout year, his WAR sat at a respectable 3.4.

The other half of this deal brings LHP Jason Vargas to Anaheim to round out the Angels rotation. Known to be an innings-eater, Vargas will do well in accumulating innings for the franchise. Vargas has tallied 33 wins over the last three seasons. Since 2010, his IP-SO ratio is not as strong as one would desire (611-388) and his WAR has dropped considerably, from 2.4 in 2010 to 0.8 in 2012. 

SIERA is a metric used to predict future performance. In 2012, Vargas posted one of the worst SIERA in all of baseball at 4.39. In comparison, Ricky Romero's SIERA of 4.98 was the worst among qualifying starting pitchers while R.A. Dickey's sat at 3.17.

Needless to say, most statistical and metric analysis suggests that the Mariners won this trade. Both Vargas and Morales are sitting with arbitration eligibility, but if anything Vargas's recent showings suggest a swift decline in his production.

On the other hand, the level of each team's reliance on their new players is vastly unequal. Vargas in L.A. will not be relied upon as heavily or frequently as Morales in Seattle. 

Morales will be considered instrumental in ensuring the Mariners stay competitive in the talented A.L. West. He automatically supplies the most raw power and experience to a lineup lacking substance (aside from Jesus Montero's projected power).

Meanwhile, Vargas will be the fifth man in a rotation consisting of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson, and Joe Blanton. One could make the argument that Vargas is a more capable pitcher than Blanton despite the fact that Blanton's 3.44 SIERA was the 17th-best in all of baseball last year, ahead of Gio Gonzalez, Yu Darvish, and Matt Cain.

Some have already reported that this trade is a "win-win" for all parties involved. After all, Morales was expected to be a role player come April due to the incredible depth of the Angels lineup. Meanwhile, Vargas has been mentioned in trade rumors dating back to last year, due in part to the strength of the Mariners' farm system, with pitchers like Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker making him an expendable commodity. 

It will be difficult to quantify this trade come late 2013 since the Mariners are not expected to compete while the Angels are one of the favorites to reach the World Series. I will say this though, the Mariners maxed out their value on Vargas and due to an overstock from the Angels, and landed a slugger who could make a difference in the now smaller confines of SafeCo Field.

[Pete Dymeck has been a writer for years, formerly as an ACC Correspondent for Sports Enthusiasts Media, LLC. and has been featured on ESPN.com, Philly.com, and numerous other outlets. His website PeteDymeck.com contains baseball content year-round]

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