Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/18/14
Seattle_mariners_vs_8145
The acquisition of Josh Hamilton gave the Angels what they wanted, but it also left the Angels with a little problem: between Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo, and Kendrys Morales, they had too many good players for too few spots. This was, as they say, a nice problem to have, and the Angels also felt they had a need for another innings-eating starting pitcher. So in a move surprising only because it went down between two teams in the same division, the Angels and Mariners have exchanged Morales and Jason Vargas, straight up. With one move, the Angels solved two perceived problems. The whole trade is simple. It’s easy to understand, like an example transaction in Trading 101. The Angels had too many bats and too few starting pitchers, so they traded a bat for a starting pitcher. The Mariners wanted a bat more than they wanted to keep one of their starting pitchers. Morales didn’t fit in one place and he does fit in the other. Morales has one year left until free agency, and he’s projected to make just under $5 million. Vargas has one year left until free agency, too, and he’s projected to make just over $7 million. There are no prospects, no cash considerations, no players to be named later. Few transactions are this uncomplicated. For the Angels, the consequences are twofold. Bourjos is now entrenched in center, flanked by Hamilton and Mike Trout. Trumbo will assume the regular DH role, and Vernon Wells will look on longingly from the dugout. And Vargas will take the fifth rotation slot from Garrett Richards, who becomes presumably necessary depth. Don’t think of this as the Angels giving Richards the boot; think of this as the Angels demoting Richards from fifth starter to sixth starter. Almost every single season, a team will need to call upon a sixth starter, and Richards will pitch. If you believe even a little bit in Bourjos, then you’re of the opinion that the Angels just made the right call, because Bourjos’ defense alone makes him an asset and his offense isn’t hopeless. He and Trumbo are also under team control for a while, whereas Morales is not. What we should focus on now is exactly who Jason Vargas is. Because he’s the new guy, and he’s going to play a lot, as the Angels gun for the playoffs. Vargas was a regular in the Mariners’ rotation between 2009-2012, and he posted a 4.09 ERA. He’s a lefty with a changeup and the corresponding fly-ball rate. Two years in a row he’s surpassed 200 innings, which makes him more appealing from the Angels’ perspective. But Vargas has also been a fly-ball lefty in Safeco Field, and these Mariners splits are extreme. Following are Vargas’ home and road performances over the last four seasons: ERA wOBA HR BABIP K% Home 3.34 0.286 34 0.263 17% Road 4.85 0.341 57 0.281 13% You see something like that and immediately you think the player is doomed if you remove him from his environment. Against Vargas in Seattle, opponents have hit like Darwin Barney. Against Vargas on the road, opponents have hit like Jon Jay. It makes intuitive sense that Vargas would flourish in the old Safeco, and that’s what we observe, and this has to be of some concern. But the good news is that the Angels play in a run-suppressing ballpark, too. It’s not quite like Safeco has been, but it’s pitcher-friendly, and what’s also pitcher-friendly is the prospect of allowing fly balls and having Trout and Bourjos in pursuit of them. Just as Vargas has benefited from his environment in the past, so it should go in the future, and he’ll give the Angels the innings they’ve been seeking. He should be unspectacular and effective enough. With Vargas, the Angels can worry less about what’s been going on inside Tommy Hanson. They know they have a little depth now, and they can afford one guy not working out. Vargas is affordable and he’s gone in a year if not re-signed, but he also went to school in Long Beach and might stick around if he likes it, and if the Angels like it too. Vargas is leaving a good place for a good place, and a better team. On the other end of this, the Mariners opened up a hole in the rotation to fill a hole in the lineup. The Mariners, as is, aren’t better than they were a day ago, but they might have more luck luring a pitcher than a hitter, and they’ve been looking for a hitter for weeks, if not months, if not years. Morales can play first base, and he’ll push Justin Smoak. Smoak also has an option, and Morales can also DH, and presumed DH Jesus Montero can also catch. Right now, there are four players for three spots, at least two of whom are good hitters, with the other two being developing prospects, but this is not a logjam like the Angels’ recent logjam. Morales was a well above-average hitter in 2012, and he was even better before his injury. He’s one of the worst baserunners in the league, and he swings a lot while rarely walking, but his power is undeniable and the Mariners might now feel more free to pursue Michael Bourn, knowing they acquired a so-called big bat. It shouldn’t be ignored that the Mariners will save money in this deal, and were willing to guarantee Josh Hamilton $25 million a year last week. There’s financial flexibility there, and the Mariners will try to remain active. Morales doesn’t seem to make them better, but there are more pathways to get better from here. The Angels got a thing they wanted for a thing they didn’t have a real use for. The Mariners got a thing they wanted for a thing they didn’t mind giving up. If neither player works out, they’ll become free agents next fall. The big winner here is Peter Bourjos, who’s going to start and who stands a chance of flourishing. And the only-slightly-less-big winner here is Jason Vargas, who’s going from a good situation to a good situation and a contending roster. The Angels still might not be the best team in the American League West, but they’re actively addressing all their problems.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Blue Jays OF tears meniscus in freak sprinkler accident

Death threats show why some fans take sports too seriously

Five bubble teams playing well heading into March

Falcons release Steven Jackson

Bill Walton has some words of advice for Derrick Rose

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Five under-the-radar National Player of the Year candidates

Judge overturns Peterson suspension; NFL to appeal

Dez Bryant's mother in 2012: Dez threatened to knock me out

Full offseason breakdown for all 32 NFL teams

Brandon Bostick received death threats after botched play

Ex-Louisville player charged with rape, sodomy

WATCH: Sidney Crosby catches teammate's stick in mid-air

WATCH: Vanderbilt coach tells own player 'I'll f-ing kill you'

Are the Kings willing to trade DeMarcus Cousins?

Johan Santana signed by Blue Jays to minor league deal

Leafs trade David Clarkson to Blue Jackets For Nathan Horton

Panthers acquire Jaromir Jagr from Devils

Russell Westbrook is surging into the MVP conversation

HBO picks up The Rock’s football series, ‘Ballers’

The key offseason moves for every MLB team

Giancarlo Stanton gets first-ever customized facemask

Ronda Rousey, Arianny Celeste have verbal sparring match

Dallas sportscaster back with another powerful essay

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Bostick death threats show why some fans take sports too seriously

Russell Westbrook is surging into the MVP conversation

Five-round NFL Mock Draft

Key offseason moves for every MLB team

Rousey, Arianny Celeste get into it

Dallas sportscaster back with another powerful essay

The parallels of Rose and Hardaway

Offseason breakdown for all 32 NFL teams

On Josh Hamilton's addiction and feeling alone

Judge rules against AP's suspension

Why the Lions should let Suh walk

Chris Jones charged with rape, sodomy

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.