The Seattle Mariners have made no secret about their desire to add offense to their anemic lineup this offseason. They’ve been connected with just about every available slugger on the trading block and in free agency, looking for someone to fill the role of middle-of-the-lineup slugger that the team has missed so badly. GM Jack Zduriencik things he may have found it by trading for switch-hitting slugger Kendrys Morales from the Los Angeles Angels, but was the price too high?
In exchange for Morales, the M’s had to give up their No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez, left-hander Jason Vargas. The 29-year old has been an innings eater for Seattle, pitching in at least 192 innings in each of the last three seasons. Last year, he pitching 217 1/3 innings with a 3.85 ERA as he went 14-11. He’s also exactly what the Angels were looking for this offseason as they add a reliable workhorse pitcher for the back end of their rotation while unloading one of their unnecessary bats.
Morales fills a glaring need for the Mariners, as well. Seattle’s offense, particularly the middle of the order, has lacked pop for several years. They finished last in the American League in runs scored for the fourth straight season in 2012 and have been committed to adding offense to try and reverse that trend. When healthy and motivated, Morales could be the answer to Seattle’s offensive woes.
Of course, healthy and motivated are not guarantees. Morales is a former MVP candidate, but that was back in 2009 before shattering his leg celebrating a walk-off home run against the Mariners early in the 2010 season. That injury kept the switch-hitter out of the lineup for the entire 2011 season and he was finally able to slowly work back into shape last season as a designated hitter for the Angels.
In 2012, Morales hit .273 with an OPS of .787 while hitting 22 home runs with 73 RBI. On last year’s Seattle team, that would have ranked him first in batting average, OPS and home runs and second in RBI, so there’s no denying that Morales will be an upgrade. If he can continue to improve and get back to his stellar 2009 form, all the better.
But was he worth sending the second best pitcher on the M’s staff to a division rival while simultaneously solving two of the rival’s pressing needs (not enough arms, too many bats) in the process?
One of the reasons that Vargas was on the trading block to begin with was because he’s just one year away from hitting the free agent market and Seattle was not likely to be able to keep him on the team beyond next season. The 29-year old Morales is in the exact same situation. He’s in the final year of arbitration and will likely hit the open market next offseason where there will be a number of teams looking for a slugger who can hit from both sides of the plate.
There’s no doubt Morales is an upgrade over anyone on the roster at the plate. However, the price was extremely high to get him and now he muddles the projected lineup at first base and DH as Seattle now has to answer how to juggle playing time between Morales, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak.
While the Mariners achieved a goal they were shooting for this offseason in acquiring Morales, they may have created a whole new set of difficulties that will make them worse off in 2013.