So today around about 3pm or so, the Mariners and the Angels straight up swapped Jason Vargas and Kendrys Morales. My initial reaction was sadness and a swear. Vargas was a favorite, and I probably saw him start more times than any other pitcher on our team – not by choice, mind you, simply by coincidence. Vargas just happened to throw a vast majority of the games I saw both last year and the year before. The luck of the draw, I guess, but because of this I felt I had become quite acquainted and familiar with him in that way that you get super comfortable when a certain player is playing that particular day. I knew we’d be seeing some decent plays in the outfield, and Vargas was always fun to watch; he just has this cool and collected air about him that was always appealing. Even his mound celebrations were reined in and very zen. He isn’t a showboat, he doesn’t outwardly display whatever fire he might have, and even when under pressure you would never know he was concerned. Vargas is to pitching what Don Wakamatsu was to management, with a keel so even you can use it to hang a picture. I hate that he is going to the Angels.
But I also understand why we did it. We are neck-deep in pitching, after spending the past few seasons collecting pitchers like, well, baseball cards. The front office has acknowledged that with this trade and while I have heard some talk earlier today of a possible hunt for a possible veteran starter, I have to wonder whether or not they’re serious about that. The Ms have been “going young” for a while now, and the younger guys down in AA and AAA seem to be coming up as advertised. I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about the progress of our prospects, but I have heard enough positivity about them over the past year that leads me to believe that some of them could see major league playing time a lot sooner rather than later. I hope to be witness to as many major league debuts as possible this year. Fingers crossed.
Morales, for his part, appears to project well. It looks like just about all of his numbers should be going up in a good way, with a pretty significant boost in both his OBP and SLG numbers from last year. I think the temptation is strong with some people to start immediately comparing this situation to the mess we got into with Chone Figgins. I don’t know what Figgins was projected to do because when that deal went through, I wasn’t really actively trying to use the numbers to educate myself. But the only thing that is likely similar with this move is that both Morales and Figgins came from Anaheim. I would caution against reading anything else into the situation other than that. Jeff has some encouraging words here that I would urge you to read if you haven’t already. Is Kendrys Morales Josh Hamilton? No, but he will work, and I am a bit heartened by the projections, even though even Bill James cannot really see into the future (he can’t really…right?) Morales will be one more year farther away from his injury issues in 2011, so he should be stronger and more ready to play; indeed he is being reported as saying that his leg is much better now. I know, I know, what else is he supposed to say, but it’s still nice that he sounds upbeat and ready to go.
I have tried to find the Tweet from local journalism regarding speculation that this deal might make Seattle a little more attractive to other remaining free agents. The names I have heard tossed around are of course Nick Swisher (who is no longer viewed as much of a target via the grapevine), Billy Butler, and this fellow Michael Bourn, who just last year was a 6.4 WAR player for Atlanta. I don’t know much about anyone but Swisher, and that is only because I have seen him play so frequently. I would take any of the three of them. I guess only time will tell what happens, but the Mariners are not done. Not yet. We may not get any other Christmas presents this year, but we still have a few months to go, and Jack Zduriencik knows his decisions must be made carefully this offseason. I am excited to see what happens next.
As for Vargas, I will miss him a lot, but acceptance of the way things are is the first step towards lessening our suffering. Like Vargas, I’m going to try and be as zen about this as possible. Goodbye, 38. I will always remember your victory against Randy Johnson and the Giants, and wish you tons of good luck in the future and a long career. You will be missed.