I won’t lie – I have a soft spot for the Mariners. That seems a bit strange because I live near Oakland and root for the A’s in my free time. Let me explain: I went to Washington State University and spent four years surrounded by sad, wandering M’s fans.
There’s that, and the fact that they have an awesome stadium, badass jerseys, and a slew of fan-favorite heroes (A-Rod, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, etc.). Anyway, it’s been disappointing to see GM Jack Zduriencik not really pull the trigger on any big moves in which Seattle was set up perfectly to do so.
The Mariners have a decently sized payroll, plenty of minor league depth, and a desperate need for hitters. Despite a lack of offensive punch, the Mariners managed to finish just a handful of games short of .500 in 2012, albeit still in fourth place.
With Hernandez leading the rotation, and a plethora of young pitching talent in Triple-A, the Mariners have the pieces to move to acquire a big bat. Today, this theory finally came to fruition. They went out and traded 14-game winner Jason Vargas to Anaheim for Kendrys Morales.
Let’s break this thing down:
SP Jason Vargas
1B/DH Kendrys Morales
It’s hard to decide who wins this trade, but my gut tells me both teams come out pretty hot. The Angels, with the losses of Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren this winter were in dire need of a pitching upgrade (and no, Joe Blanton doesn’t count). They made a nifty move in acquiring Tommy Hanson from Atlanta, but it wasn’t enough.
I’m not sure if you can say Vargas is the final piece they need, but it surely won’t hurt. This gives the Angels a pair of very good lefty starters in Vargas and C.J. Wilson to pair with Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver. We know Los Angeles added Josh Hamilton to the lineup, making Morales expendable.
But is it enough? Can the Angels improve on a 90-win ball club and return to A.L. West supremacy? Having Vargas in the third spot in that rotation will help them inch closer. And you have to expect a full season of Mike Trout, plus Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, that they will be a better team.
For the Mariners, who are chasing the Angels (and everyone else for that matter) in the division, this should spell the end of the long-drawn out Justin Smoak experiment. Morales is an instant upgrade in all departments over Smoak, and will provide a good source of punch to the lineup.
With the emergence of Kyle Seager and a likely improvement next season from Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero, the Mariners could be a sneaky dangerous team in 2013. As long as the rotation can pick up the slack left by Vargas, I expect an improvement for Seattle, though I don’t think they are quite ready to be a contender yet.
That being said, Zduriencik knows he needs another bat or two, and may be chasing an Andre Ethier or Michael Bourn-type player as the winter evolves. If they can pair one more veteran power bat like Ethier’s, or a good top-of-the-order guy like Bourn, without giving up too much pitching, I see no reason why the Mariners can’t make like the 2012 A’s and take the league by surprise.
As for grading this trade, I’m giving a slightly higher mark to the Mariners, simply for going out and being aggressive in adding a bat to a flat lineup. They have pitching depth and are on the right track with getting some power in there with Morales and Jason Bay (well…you know…maybe). Mariners Grade: B+
The Angels got an underrated starting pitcher, but still haven’t made up for lost talent in the rotation. Not to mention, Morales was as good a hitter as they could ask for in that DH/1B slot. The offense did downgrade with the loss of Morales and Torii Hunter, even after the Hamilton signing. Overall, it’s a good move, but they better make a World Series run before 2014 when Vargas is a free agent or be prepared to shell out a pretty hefty extension. Angels Grade: B
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Yesterday, we posted our All-“You Don’t Know Me But You WILL” team for the National League. Pay attention, because those guys are the ones who will make you look like a genius in future fantasy drafts.
They are the ones who will be the next Giancarlo Stanton. The next Mike Fiers. Young guys that aren’t known to the casual baseball fan but are absolutely ripping it up in 2012 and show big flashes of potential for the years to come.
You’ll thank us later, when you can tell your friends that you knew who Josh Rutledge was before anyone else and knew he would be an All-Star. Here is our American League version of the All-Unknown team – one stud you probably haven’t heard of yet, at each position:
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (.312/11/45 in 89 games)
I can do this because – well, let’s be honest – nobody really cares about the Royals outside of Western Missouri. That being said, you should know who Perez is. The 22-year-old will be a huge part of that offense in K.C. for years to come.
1st Base: Chris Carter, Oakland A’s (.274/12/31 in 48 games)
Here’s another case of “unknown-by-location.” If Carter was on the Red Sox or Yankees, he would be a household name. Luckily for A’s fans, he plays in Oakland and all he does is hit the ball very, very far. He will hit 30 homers some day.
2nd Base: Ivan De Jesus, Boston Red Sox (.273/0/4 in 23 games with Boston and LA Dodgers)
Clearly, this was a very weak position for our team. That being said, I watched De Jesus a lot in Los Angeles and he’s got all the makings of an above-average Major League infielder. If the BoSox develop him right, he could be a .300/25 steals kind of guy.
3rd Base: Alex Liddi, Seattle Mariners (.231/3/10 in 31 games)
The Italian-born prospect has absolutely lit minor league pitching up, and though he struggled a bit in his call-up, I fully expect stardom in the next few years. He’s blocked in Seattle by Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Seager though.
Shortstop: Pedro Ciriaco, Boston Red Sox (.336/2/16/10 for 10 SB in 46 games)
I just feel ridiculous including a Red Sox player here, but considering they aren’t in contention and are getting less national attention, some people might night know about the fantastic job Ciriaco has been doing in Boston this season.
Outfield: Moises Sierra, Toronto Blue Jays (.284/2/5 in 24 games)
This is going to be the Toronto Blue Jays show in the outfield. Get used to it. And Sierra is finally getting a shot at playing full-time with super star Jose Bautista injured. This 24-year-0ld outfielder needs a little seasoning but could turn into a 20/20 player.
Outfield: Jarrod Dyson (.270/0/9/25 out of 28 SB in 87 games)
Dyson is not on the big league club for his power bat. He is a terrific defender who steals bases at will. Look at those base-swiping numbers; with a full-time gig, Dyson could legitimately steal 50 bases in his prime.
Outfield: Anthony Gose, Toronto Blue Jays (.183/0/2/10 SB in 28 games)
I know the stats aren’t very good. But he stole 70 bases twice in the minor leagues. Gose just turned 22 and the Blue Jays know they have a future star in him. Give him another couple of months against Major League pitching.
Starting Pitcher: Samuel Deduno, Minnesota Twins (5-2/3.72/1.50 in 10 starts)
Deduno went 7 strong against Seattle in his most recent start, allowing no runs, no walks and striking out 9. But one start isn’t why he’s on this list. He has filthy stuff. The elder statesman on this list at age 29, Deduno might be a late-bloomer in Minnesota.
Relief Pitcher: Sean Doolittle, Oakland A’s (30.2 IP, 45 K, 3.23 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in 28 appearances)
Doolittle is doing a lot in Oakland for that magical Wild Card run they are attempting to make. The kid is only 25 and all he does is strike people out. A lot. Doolittle could be a future closer if he gets a little more sink on his breaking ball.
You’ll thank us when these guys become rich and famous and awesome in the next few years. Did we forget anyone? Snub your team’s young star? Let us know in the comments below, but remember it’s unknown players. So don’t yell at us for omitting someone like Will Middlebrooks or Manny Machado. Thanks!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)