The Seattle Mariners have needed a bat all offseason, and they missed on Josh Hamilton. The one matter-of-fact thing Jack Zduriencik has been saying all along is that the front office wanted to add a run producer. It's been less clear of late who that run producer might be. Earlier this morning, browsing around, I saw that the Angels were reportedly looking to trade Kendrys Morales for an innings-eating starting pitcher. Morales struck me as a sensible sort of target, but I thought to myself, "eh, all the Mariners really have to offer is Jason Vargas." And that was enough, turns out! Morales -- the victim of an Anaheim roster crunch -- has been traded to the Mariners, for Vargas, straight up.
There'll be more on this trade later on, and right now I'm just trying to get out the quick, easy stuff. Morales is a year away from free agency, and he's projected to make $4.8 million. Vargas is also a year away from free agency, and he's projected to make $7.4 million, so there'll be some savings here for the Mariners to put toward whatever the hell else they're doing. Morales presumably won't be it, and in a way this is just a lateral move, since Vargas is an average pitcher and Morales is an average position player.
There's now a hole in a starting rotation I thought already had one hole at the back end. Previously, Zduriencik said he was open to the idea of adding a veteran starter, but now it seems like a virtual certainty that they'll add an arm. One notes that Edwin Jackson is still a free agent who could be somewhat affordable. Vargas was going to be affected by the nearer fences, and while they weren't going to cripple his value, he's probably not too disappointed to leave for another dinger-suppressing ballpark where he'll be supported in the outfield by Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos. The life Vargas has been living, he'll continue to live, except closer to home and on a good baseball team. I don't think the Angels have to worry too much about Vargas' home/road splits.
Right now, though, this isn't so much about the Mariners' rotation as it is about the Mariners' lineup. Exactly how Morales fits, we'll see, but he's a lot more of a DH than a first baseman*. As is, you'd figure Jesus Montero will catch a lot, with the occasional spell at DH, and Morales will DH a lot, with the occasional spell at first base. Morales isn't exactly the player the Mariners needed but it won't be tough to distribute playing time, and that's just with things as they are today.
Last season, Morales posted a 118 wRC+, which is like OPS+ except using wOBA instead. Put another way, last season Morales was about as good a hitter as Jason Heyward and Alfonso Soriano. He's 29 and a switch-hitter although he's been far better from the left side. He's aggressive, which means he seldom walks, but his whole thing is power and he's got enough of it. Last year his home-run total would've led the Mariners. Morales didn't play in 2011, but I think he would've led the Mariners that year, too.
This is interesting, because it's a move. This is additionally interesting, because it's a move for the sort of player fans have wanted. This is further interesting still because the Mariners will actually save money and probably aren't done. I like the idea of Michael Bourn, but he'd be easier to sell to the average fan now that the front office has landed more of a slugging type. I like the idea of Jackson, and he'd definitely be a better starter than Vargas was. We'll just see how the rest of the offseason will play out, but at last, Robert Andino and Jason Bay have company.
* I'm not sure why I wrote this. Morales DH'd a lot in 2012, but mostly because the Angels had this Albert Pujols character. Morales is a capable first baseman, so he's not so inflexible, and this job-share rotation the Mariners might be looking at at C/1B/DH isn't so impossible as it might seem. And, again, it's the middle of December, and rosters can change between the middle of December and the start of the season. Rosters can change between the middle of December and slightly later in the middle of December!