We all knew a trade of a bat for an arm was coming, and now here it is. The Angels have traded 1B/DH Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for left-handed starter Jason Vargas.
In a word: meh.
At first glance, it seems that the Angels might have gotten the lesser value in the deal. Vargas certainly fits the mold of the pitcher the Halos were said to be targeting in return for Morales. They wanted an innings eater and that is exactly what Vargas is, having thrown 192 or more innings each of the last three years. He, however, also isn't really that good, which is true of most pitchers described as "innings eaters."
While Vargas' ERA has hovered right around 4.00 the last three season, his peripherals don't support that number as he was pitching in spacious Safeco Field, which is one of the few AL parks that is actually more friendly to pitchers than the Big A. As such, he'll probably see his numbers take a marginal hit on the move down the coast alone. Of course, with the DH spot now freed up for Mark Trumbo, that could be offset by Vargas, an extreme flyball pitcher, pitching in front of a Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton outfield. None of this is to say that Vargas is going to stink up the joint, it is just that he is pretty obviously not going to be anything more than a league average pitcher and I think all hoped that Jerry Dipoto would've thought a little bigger than that.
Then again, I'm not so sure the Angels could've done that much better. Morales' reputation exceeds his actual value because of his magical 2009 campaign. In reality though, he is a guy who needs to DH at least part-time, has a MAJOR injury red flag and has yet to prove that he can handle left-handed pitching. He is also a free agent after the season, just like Vargas. There was always going to be a ceiling on the return he could fetch. But what I think really puts the Angels on the short end of the stick here is that Morales is projected to get $4.8 million in arbitration this year while Vargas will get around $7.4 million and there is no money changing hands in this deal. That essentially means they are trading Morales plus about $2.5 million for Vargas, which is decided less attractive even if the Angels have a license to print their own money now.
That being said, I do like the deal since it cleared out the logjam in the lineup. I just think the Angels could have done a little better.
The only loose thread here now is what the Angels will do with Garrett Richards, who once again finds himself without a role. He could be returned to Triple-A as insurance, but he has nothing left to prove down there and a demotion might trigger his rumored attitude problems again. I kind of like the idea of him assuming the one open bullpen spot, since he has good stuff that might be more well-suited to relief work anyway. Or maybe the Angels will trade him, possibly as a pot sweetener to teams interested in Vernon Wells, though that seems like a great way to burn one of their few young rotation assets.
So, yeah, maybe the Angels aren't totally done with their off-season, but all the major moves should now come to an end.
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"Meh" was my exact reaction. I think reading your stuff has influenced my own thinking. Anyway, I don't understand why DiPoto didn't hang onto Morales for longer, it's not like his trade value is at an all-time high. I'm sure he'll put better stats next year firstly because he'd be longer healed from the injury, and because he'd hit in a lineup with arguable 3 of the best hitters in the game. I'm sure Dipoto would be able to land someone better than Jason Vargas for Morales then. This is just one of those moves where in a few months, I'm sure Seattle would still trade Vargas for Morales, so I'm not sure what the rush is.
Also, I get the that the Angels lineup is flashy, but the depth actually kind of worries me. After Trout and Pujols, nobody is a sure thing. Hamilton is a beast, but that was at Arlington, who knows if he can duplicate that here (ala early-2011 Pujols). Nobody knows which Trumbo is the real Trumbo. Aybar, Kendrick, and Callaspo have their streaks but are really nothing special. Morales could be one more steady bat in the lineup. But hey, at least Bourjous plays now right?
I am almost certain Morales could have had a good 2012 with the Angels, and we could get a better return for him at the trade deadline. This just seems uncharacteristic of a Dipoto Trade.