The Mariners finally came up with a middle-of-the-order bat, but it cost them their No. 2 pitcher.
Acquired from the Angels Wednesday was first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales, 29, who batted .273 with 22 home runs and 73 RBI in 134 games with the Angels. Gone is Jason Vargas, 29, who led Mariners pitchers with 14 wins last season but as a lefty flyball pitcher, will probably suffer a little when the Safeco Field fences come in for 2013.
“Kendrys gives us a veteran presence and a proven, middle-of-the-order bat, with power from both sides of the plate,” said Mariners manager Eric Wedge in a club statement. “Adding him to our line-up immediately makes us a better offensive club.”
Morales has played his entire career with the Angels, batting .281 with 79 home runs and 265 RBI across six MLB seasons (2006-2010, 2012).
“We have been focused on adding offense this off-season, and feel that Kendrys will be a middle-of-the-order bat for us. He’s a switch-hitter with power who has played, and hit, in the AL West,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He’s familiar with the teams and parks and is a proven run-producer. We hate to part with Jason, and really appreciate everything he’s done for us, but we are in a situation where we had to give up talent to acquire talent.”
After a career-best season in 2009 in which he recorded 43 doubles, 34 home runs, 108 RBI and finished 5th in the American League MVP voting, Morales was limited to 51 games in 2010 and missed the entire 2011 season. He suffered a fractured lower left leg after jumping on home plate following his walk-off grand slam May 29, 2010 vs. the Mariners. At the time of his season-ending surgery, Morales ranked among the American League leaders, batting .290 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI.
Morales originally signed with the Angels as an international free agent on Dec. 1, 2004. He defected to the USA on June 8, 2004 after a storied career in the Cuban national program. As a Cuban amateur, he hit .330 (287×871) with 37 home runs and 170 RBI. He was the first teenager to play for the Cuban National Team since Omar Linares in the 1980s.
Vargas, 29, pitched the last four seasons with the Mariners, combining to go 36-42 with a 4.09 ERA (319 ER, 702.2 IP) in 119 games with 110 starts. The left-hander has logged consecutive 200-inning seasons, combining to go 24-24, 4.04 ERA in 65 starts in 2011-2012. Last season, Vargas led the Mariners in wins, going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA (93 ER, 217.1 IP), and ranked 4th in the AL with 22 quality starts.