Morales-Vargas, Joey Bada$$ and Sleeping In. How are they all related?

The Mariners traded Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales on Wednesday. I also slept in until 11 am. How are these events tangentially related? Well, I clearly have too much time on my hands, therefore I should rekindle my blog and talk about the effects of this trade!

Hip-Hop Music for this Post

I always listen to hip-hop, especially when I write. Today’s choice is the 1999 mixtape from Joey Bada$$ from earlier this year. It might be my favorite mixtape of the year, and Joey and the rest of the Pro Era crew will be dropping a new project today and it should be pretty dope. Check out their website. Here is a sample of the dopeness of 1999.

Is this a Good Trade for the Mariners?

Do you remember when the Mariners had hitters who could hit at least 25 home runs per season if fully healthy? The last guy to do that in a Mariner uniform was Russell Branyan in 2009. He was traded halfway through 2010 and finished with 25 home runs. Other than that, Mariners fans “rejoiced” last year when Kyle Seager hit his 20th home run. 20!! Best believe!!!

That’s depressing.

What isn’t depressing is the fact that this Morales-Vargas trade actually makes complete sense for the Mariners. It was essentially a swap of an average player for an average player, but the Mariners need for the Angels average player should improve their team (I should mention that, as usual, all statistics come via Fangraphs.com, and if you are not acquainted with the stat WRC+, follow the link and learn. It is an incredibly useful statistic).

Morales is an above average hitter when healthy

When Branyan was sending moonshots out of Safeco Field, Morales was putting together his breakout season down in Anaheim. Morales mashed 34 home runs and put up an impressive slash line — .306/.355/.569 — with a  136 WRC+. He was on his way to another standout season at age 27 in 2010 with 11 home runs and a .290/.346/.487 slash line with a 128 WRC+ through 51 games. Unfortunately he broke his leg in a celebration (against the Mariners, interestingly enough) at the plate after hitting a walk-off home run at the end of May. It was gruesome, and he missed the rest of 2010 and the entire 2011 season.

Needless to say, he was a little rusty starting last year, but the rust was mainly reserved for his power stroke. After posting the .569 and .487 slugging percentages over 759 at bats in 2009 and 2010, he could only manage .388, .443, .451 and .397 through the first four months of the 2012 season with just 11 home runs. Luckily for us, Mariners fans (yes, we have something to be excited about!), he slugged a robust .570 and .506 with 11 home runs in August and September over 189 at bats.

Granted two months is a small sample size, but the reason we can read something into it as fans is because Morales has been a powerful bat before. A .500 slugging percentage is not outrageous for him, and if he does that it would be a godsend for the Mariners lineup. After all, the highest slugging percentage for the M’s last year with a full season  of plate appearances (Jaso, much to the chagrin of yours truly, only was able to compile 361 PA’s. SHAME on you Eric Wedge)? Michael Saunders at .432. I love Saunders, but he should not be the best hitter in a lineup.

Now for the traditional cold water that I like to throw on any positive Mariners happiness

Morales is a switch-hitter, which in theory is pretty cool. But a lot of switch-hitters actually are much better from one side of the plate, and Morales is no exception. In fact, his career splits are fairly drastic. Check it out:

vs. RHP as LH: 127 WRC+ .290/.345/.514

vs LHP as RH: 84 WRC+ .250/.286/.416

As a left-handed hitter, Morales is above-average and he has 30 home run pop. As a right-handed hitter, Morales has shown an offensive ability equivalent to that of…Brendan Ryan in 2011. Wait, seriously?!?!

Seriously. However, Morales has only compiled 392 plate appearances, which is not even a full season of work. So it is a small sample size and maybe he has more to offer as a right-handed hitter! Or, maybe he will continue to be equivalent to a light-hitting shorstop 😦 Luckily, the M’s should have no trouble platooning him with Montero and Smoak. Montero raked against lefties last year (132 WRC+) and Smoak was actually about league average against lefties (99 WRC+).

Another issue with Morales is the fact that he is an atrocious baserunner. Morales cost the Angels about 2.5 runs last year on the bases, as well as 2.2, 14 and 2.7 in his ’08, ’09 and ’10 seasons. Yikes. That 14 number is probably an anomaly, but as you can see, he has been consistently bad on the bases throughout his career.

Verdict

All in all, the trade makes sense for the Mariners. Vargas gave them everything he could, and with the fences moving in, Vargas may have found the confines of Safeco Field less comfy and he would not have been as effective (Vargas’s Home/Road splits in 2010 and 2012 are a clinic in the importance of park factors. In 2011, he was strangely better on the road, so we learn the importance of small sample sizes! Yay, we can learn even when we are not in school!!). Vargas moves to a very good pitchers park with Trout and Bourjos — possibly the two best defensive outfielders in the game — behind him, so I wish him the best of luck. He was a good Mariner, but not a Mariner you are particularly sad to lose, unfortunately.

As for Morales, he will hopefully provide a hitter that the Mariners desperately need in their lineup. He has hit for power at home and on the road throughout his career, and if the Mariners platoon him correctly, it will be a major upgrade for this lineup.

My post tomorrow will be about the implications this trade has for Justin Smoak. On Sunday, I will post about where the Mariners should look next for offseason upgrades. Where in the heck is this initiative for blogging coming from??

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