Yesterday, Jack Zduriencik made his first trade of the offseason, swapping No. 2 starter Jason Vargas for the Angels’ first baseman and designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
Over 33 starts in 2012, Jason maintained a 3.85 ERA over 217.1 IP, his lowest since 2010. Vargas struggled to keep the ball in Safeco Field, accounting for 35 home runs in what was once a pitcher’s park. When he was good, he was very good, finishing the season with a sparkling seven inning performance against Oakland, granting the soon-to-be playoff contenders five hits, a run, and seven strikeouts. When he was bad, things got ugly—for instance, his season-low performance in Arizona, where he sent the Mariners spiraling after giving up nine hits, ten runs, five home runs, and two walks in just 4.1 IP.
In Kendrys Morales, the Mariners find the missing middle-of-the-order hitter they had hoped to secure with the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade last winter. Morales has somewhat successfully bounced back from two injury-laden seasons, caused in part by his new home team.
“That injury occurred when he landed awkwardly while jumping into a group of teammates at home plate after hitting a walk-off grand slam off Mariners closer Brandon League in Anaheim on May 29, 2010.” — Greg Johns, Mariners.com
Last season, Kendrys batted .273/.320/.467 in 522 PA with 22 home runs and a .339 wOBA. Morales peaked in 2009, with a .306 average, 4.0 bWAR, and fifth place in the MVP award voting. According to Greg Johns’ wrap-up, the 29-year-old has fared well in Seattle so far, managing seven home runs, a .292 average, and .904 OPS over 34 games. One can only hope that the shortened fences will work in his favor, while Jason finds the spacious dimensions of Angel Stadium more to his liking.
By this time next year, both Vargas and Morales will be free agents. Last season, Vargas fed on a $4.85M contract, while Morales topped out at $2.98M.
With a potential power hitter gracing the Mariners’ lineup, the team turns to its rotation once again. Rumors cropped up early in the offseason, hinting that Jack Z put another starter on his Christmas wish list. Today, it is a pressing need, lest we see Eric Wedge throw Hector Noesi back in the mix. Although much remains to be tested and proven in the months to come, Jack and Wedge are looking at a rotation captained by King Felix and followed by a combination of Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, or Brandon Maurer.
Jack may still have a few more surprises up his sleeve this winter, but at least through the holiday weekend, Mariner fans can finally sleep peacefully.