In a rare intradivision trade, the Los Angeles Angels traded Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for Jason Vargas, and while I like the upside a little better for the Mariners, it looks like a trade that should work for both teams.
Morales gives the Mariners a much-needed power bat as he hit 22 home runs in his first year back after missing nearly two full seasons after that horrific ankle injury in 2010. A switch-hitter, he's much better from the left side of the plate, with a career OPS 157 points higher from that side. A first baseman in the past, he's probably limited to DH duties at this point.
The trickle effect for the Mariners: What does this mean for Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero? It could be the end of Smoak, with Montero being given the chance to learn first base; or maybe Morales slides in at first with Montero assuming regular DH duties. It could also mean Montero remains behind the plate, at least platooning with John Jaso to start the year. But with catching prospect Mike Zunino not that far away, Montero's catching days aren't going to last long anyway.
The Mariners also give up a pitcher who was a bad risk for them in 2013, with the fences moving in at Safeco Field. Even though Safeco was one of the toughest home-run parks in the majors in 2012, Vargas allowed the second-most home runs in the American League with 35. His home-road splits have been sizable since joining Seattle and in 2012 he had a 2.74 ERA at home, 4.78 on the road. While we don't know how Safeco will play, it was a good bet Vargas' ERA was going to balloon.
That doesn't mean he's a bad pickup for the Angels. Their home ballpark is also one of the toughest home run parks around and the Angels aren't moving in their fences. They get a durable left-hander who has averaged 204 innings the past three seasons (one of just 20 pitchers to throw at least 600 innings over the past three years). With Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Peter Bourjos playing behind him (with Mark Trumbo moving to DH), many of Vargas' fly balls will be hauled on by that outfield; Trout and Bourjos alone may make it the best defensive outfield in the majors, even with Hamilton having lost range out there.
Vargas has to be viewed as a better pitcher than Joe Blanton and gives them more probability than injury-risk Tommy Hanson. A solid pickup by the Angels and they didn't have to surrender the younger and cheaper Bourjos or Trumbo.