In an intra-division trade between the third- and fourth-place teams in the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels dealt first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for left-handed starter Jason Vargas on Thursday.
Having signed outfielder Josh Hamilton, the Angels had offensive players in excess and not enough starting pitching. Having failed to sign Hamilton and other power bats, the Mariners had too little pop and a surplus of starters.
Vargas joins an Angels rotation that got thready after Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. He was 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA over 217 1/3 innings last season, his fourth with the Mariners.
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After missing most of 2010 and all of 2011 with severe leg and ankle injuries, the switch-hitting Morales batted .273 with 22 home runs and an .833 OPS in 2012. Morales suffered the injury in '10 when he landed poorly on home plate after a walk-off grand slam against the Mariners.
Both players can be free agents after the 2013 season.
The trade is likely to provide more playing time for Peter Bourjos in center field. Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo could divide time between right field and designated-hitter. And Mike Trout becomes the regular left fielder.
Vargas joins a rotation of Weaver, Wilson and two of Tommy Hanson, Garrett Richards and Joe Blanton.
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The Mariners, meantime, scored the fewest runs in the AL last season and have been linked to nearly every available hitter this winter. Before Thursday they had added Jason Bay and Robert Andino. Morales presumably would get the majority of his at-bats at first base, replacing Justin Smoak, and the rest at DH.
Before his injury, Morales was blossoming into one of the better hitters in the game. In 2009, he batted .306 with 34 home runs and finished fifth in MVP balloting, and in 51 games the following season had fallen off only slightly. He is 29.
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