So The Plan, wrought ever so secretly in the dark places of the heart in the bleakness of Winter way back in 2009 finally bears fruit. The Plan was cunning, but also simple: Allow a star on a division rival to defeat you in such dramatic, heart-wrenching style that the ensuing celebration would be so exuberant and so unfettered as to result in a catastrophic injury for that star. The injury would be so severe and take such a long time to heal that the rival team would be forced to allocate massive resources (perhaps even unwisely so) to find a replacement for that star. Once the injured player was fully recovered his team would find they no longer had need for him, and then, THEN the fullness of Jackís genius was brought forth into sunlight. It was a slow play, taking years of patience and exacting planning, but today The Planís existence is known to all. The Mariners have traded Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales.
On the surface it appears both teams traded from positions of strength to address weakness. The Mariners, common knowledge dictates, have an excess of pitching and the Angels have hitters oozing from their pores and making a sloppy mess on the carpet. Of course now that the Mariners have traded one of those starting pitchers they donít (or maybe never really did) have such an abundance of pitchers. The key, as it has been all along is where this trade stands in the context of the entire offseason which, and I know this may surprise you, is not even close to over.
Jason Vargas was a durable, effective, average starting pitcher. His days of being a value are now behind him as he gets closer to free agency but he stands perhaps as the greatest piece brought back in that amazing JJ Putz trade. I will always remember him fondly and hope after the Angels suffer catastrophic failure he is traded to a contending team.
Kendrys Morales is a switch-hitting, power first 1B, which is what fans have been clamoring for all Winter. He runs very similarly to Jesus Montero and his glove is probably somewhere below average. Like Vargas heís a year away from free agency. One minor bonus to the trade is that Moralesí 2013 salary is more than 2 million dollars less than Vargasí which could help the team scrape its coffers to replace Vargas or make a push for the coveted Bourn/Swisher duo.
When not hurt Morales has been an average to good 1B. In the year prior to his catastrophic injury Morales hit 34 home runs and put up a .wOBA of .387. Still only 29 with legitimate 2.5-3.0 WAR potential this move makes the 1B/DH pile start to resemble the reliever pile stockpiled the winter of 2010/2011. Although Smoak/Montero/Jaso/Morales all have significant question marks a multitude of options betters the odds of producing some wheat to go with all that chaff.
Weíll have more analysis of the trade soon. For now thereís no way of knowing where the Mariners will go next this offseason. Today they made it clear that the offseason didnít revolve around a Jason Bay signing, and that is a comforting thought.