Late Wednesday afternoon we learned of an interesting and rare deal between two American League West rivals.
The Los Angeles Angels, who added even more elite depth to their lineup by signing Josh Hamilton last week, have traded first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for talented left-handed starter Jason Vargas.
At first glance, it's a bit strange seeing such a trade go down with a pair of currently useful players moving within the division, especially when both could have plenty of good years ahead of them. At age 29 (Vargas will hit 30 before the season), both are coming off productive seasons. Morales hit 273/.320/.467 with 22 homers, 73 RBI and 61 runs in his first full campaign since breaking his leg in 2010. Vargas compiled a 14-11 record with a 3.85 ERA, and 141 strikeouts in 217 1/3 innings.
But this one really is all about two teams filling needs for 2013 and also getting some type of return on impending free agents that they may have had limited interest or funds to employ long-term. Both players are scheduled to hit the open market at the conclusion of the season, but could just as easily be extended with their new teams if they prove their worth and enjoy their stays.
It's a win-win, for now, because as we mentioned earlier, the Angels offense is overflowing with elite talent after bringing Hamilton on board. He'll join Albert Pujols and Mike Trout to form the most fearsome trio in either league for the next handful of years. Hamilton's signing also meant less playing for Morales, which immediately turned him into a trade chip to acquire starting pitching in the wake of Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana's departure. Vargas fits the bill and then some as an innings eater and left-hander.
On the flipside, Seattle has spent the past few offseasons searching desperately for offense. They were in on Hamilton pretty much to the end and have been linked at one time to just about every hitter on the market or on the trade block. A healthy Morales will definitely help. A breakout season from Jesus Montero would too. But perhaps nothing will help more than the Mariners finally moving in the fences at Safeco Field.
Anyway, in the end, the trade makes too much sense for either side to back down based on who they were dealing with.
Well, unless Jerry Dipoto rethinks it once he realizes Morales is 5-for-12 in his career against Vargas with two homers, two strikeouts and a walk.