The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have quickly fixed the logjam in their offense that was created when they signed Josh Hamilton by dealing designated hitter Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for starting pitcher Jason Vargas. The trade will allow the team to keep Peter Bourjos (who Jon Heyman predicted would now be the team's center fielder), along with getting a glove away from Mark Trumbo and putting him at DH.
This trade seems a little bit odd from both standpoints. After playing in just 51 games in 2010 after breaking his leg, Morales missed all of 2011, returning to the Angels for a full 2012 season. The 29-year old largely scuffled through the season, hitting 22 homers with a .787 OPS as the Angels' primary DH. Now, he'll head to a Seattle team that already has a full-time DH in Jesus Montero, perhaps indicating that Montero will see more time behind the plate in 2013 and that Justin Smoak's playing time at first base will drastically decrease after his game hasn't taken the leap to the next level. On the bright side for Seattle, Morales immediately becomes the team's best power threat. No one on the Mariners hit more homers than Morales' 22 in 2012, and his .194 ISO also would have led the team. Of course, there's the Safeco Field factor to account for here with Morales, though he has a .904 OPS and seven homers in 34 career games there.
The return for the Angels is...questionable. Vargas is a guy who lots of teams were sniffing around at the trade deadline, but no one could pry him from Seattle's grasp. Vargas is your typical innings eater, throwing 217 2/3 innings last season while posting a 3.85 ERA with a career-best 2.56 strikeout to walk ratio. But by leaving the friendly confines of Safeco Field behind, Vargas is going to probably see his stats get bloated despite replacing the Angels offense with the Mariners offense on his docket. During his four year career with the Mariners, Vargas has had a road ERA at least two runs higher than his home ERA in three of them, including 2012. On the road, Vargas has gotten torched for home run after home run, allowing 26 in 2012 in just 118 2/3 road innings.
Now, while Angel Stadium does play as a pitcher's park, it's nowhere near as extreme as Safeco Field. I'd expect Vargas to see his ERA rise with the move to Anaheim, but I'm not exactly expecting a two run spike like his home/road splits would indicate. I'm also curious as to what the effects of the Angels defensive outfield will be on Vargas. He's primarily a flyball pitcher, and having a pair of studs in the outfield like Bourjos and Trout could turn a lot of balls into outs that fell last year around a Mariners outfield that was below average defensively aside from Ichiro (traded in July) and Casper Wells (part-time).
I'm not sure Varga is really going to solve any issues in Anaheim, though. The team has a homer-prone innings eater in their rotation in Joe Blanton, and they have a homer-prone flyball happy starter in Tommy Hanson as well. Even Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson allow a decent bit of homers, and they're your aces. Vargas just seems like an expensive (projected to make $7.4 million this year, his final year of arbitration) back-end starter, and I think they could have gotten more for Morales. The Mariners will now face an interesting decision with what to do with Smoak now that Morales has entered the fold, and if a team is willing to gamble, they could have a former blue chip prospect for a low cost and little risk. Mr Zduriencik, Andrew Friedman on line one...