On Wednesday night, the Angels made what may be their final significant move of the offseason in trading Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for Jason Vargas. In making this trade the Angels cleared a logjam while shoring up the rotation at the same time.
Vargas, 29, has spent the last 3 years as a key member of the Mariners rotation alongside Felix Hernandez. Since 2010, he has posted ERA’s of 3.78, 4.25, and 3.85 while logging an average of 204 innings per year. He has been good for 5.8 wins above replacement in that span, for an average of roughly 2 wins per season. He is the workhorse starter the Angels have been searching for and is certainly an upgrade over Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards.
While being an excellent starter over the past few years, Vargas does come with some flaws. His ERA+ is slightly below league average (97) due to pitching in Safeco Field which has been largely beneficial to his success as a pitcher with a career 44.6 fly ball rate. Vargas is likely to regress slightly in 2013 as he moves from perhaps the second-best pitchers park in baseball (behind Petco) to a slightly more hitter friendly park in Angel Stadium. As we saw with Ervin Santana last year, Angels pitchers can still be susceptible to the long ball despite the stadium’s large dimensions and the outfield’s potentially superb defense.
With the addition of Vargas, Jerry Dipoto now appears to be finished with his rotation overhaul. As it stands, the rotation will be made up of Vargas, Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Tommy Hanson, and Joe Blanton. While not a spectacular group, it very well could be better than last year’s staff considering the upgrade over Santana and the 2012 version of Dan Haren. There is also depth, something the Angels lacked last season, in Richards and Williams who could easily step in when needed.
While the Angels fill their rotation hole, the Mariners also gain a bat they desperately needed. The Mariners already have a blockade of John Jaso, Jesus Montero, and Justin Smoak manning the catcher, DH, and first base spots respectively, but Morales seems to be a logical fit considering the upgrade he could provide over Smoak and possibly Montero. Of the trio, Smoak is probably the odd man out as the Mariners will likely try Morales at his natural position of first base.
With Morales leaving, the Angels lineup appears to be set for 2013. Peter Bourjos moves back into the fold now, as Mike Trout will be shifted back over to left field with Josh Hamilton in right. Mark Trumbo will most likely be the full-time DH, while rotating out with Pujols and Hamilton to give each of them rest. While the Halos will certainly miss Morales’s bat in the lineup, they had the necessary depth to offset the loss.
Morales is a fan favorite who will be missed, but the Angels did the right thing in trading a surplus to fill a need. While Vargas is no Zack Greinke, he should be a vital part of the Angels’ rotation in 2013.
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