Angels deal Morales to M's for Vargas

December 19, 2012

The Angels traded for a starting pitcher Wednesday, but perhaps the best part of that news for them was they didn’t have to give up Peter Bourjos or Mark Trumbo to get him.

Left-hander Jason Vargas, a 14-game winner last season with the Seattle Mariners, was acquired in exchange for designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who made a successful return last season after missing all of 2011 and most of 2010 because of a broken ankle.

"It's a great opportunity for me to be with an organization that's committed to winning now, obviously, and putting a team on the field that is going to be premier from top to bottom," said Vargas. "It's exciting for me."

After the Angels signed free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton last week, it was assumed that general manager Jerry Dipoto would have to deal one of his two most valuable commodities, either Bourjos or Trumbo, in order to add a starter to the team’s rotation.

But he worked a deal with American League West rival Seattle for Morales, who hit 22 home runs and batted .273 in his comeback season. Morales can become a free agent after next season.

Keeping Bourjos and Trumbo means manager Mike Scioscia will have more flexibility with his roster, allowing him to put Trumbo at DH, but also use him at first base when Albert Pujols needs a rest. Trumbo also can play in right field, with Hamilton filling the DH spot.

It also gives the Angels a fast, full-coverage outfield with Mike Trout in left, Bourjos in center and Hamilton in right.

“Mike has played left and center,” Dipoto said in a conference call. “Peter can play center and really is athletic enough to do what you need him to do. Josh Hamilton has played all three (outfield positions) and has vast experience at all three. Mark Trumbo can come in and take days at first base when Albert needs a blow, and you have the DH at-bats now where you can rotate a variety of different players.”

In the 29-year-old Vargas, a former teammate of Angels ace Jered Weaver at Long Beach State, the Angels add a starter who can throw 200 or more innings and is a fly-ball pitcher who will benefit from a strong outfield defense. He threw 217 innings last season and has pitched 200 or more in each of the past two seasons.

In seven career appearances at Angel Stadium, Vargas, an Apple Valley High School graduate, has a 3-1 record and a 2.27 ERA in 43 2/3 innings.

"I've loved pitching there," Vargas said of Angel Stadium. "It's familiar scenery for me, having played in the same division and gone there as a kid. It's a comfortable place for me."

He was 14-11 last season with the Mariners with a 3.85 ERA.

“Jason was what we were looking for on the market this year, just a steady, reliable left-hander,” Dipoto said. “He has a history of pitching a high volume of innings. Clearly, I think we make ourselves a little bit better just in that we don’t have to face him because he’s given us fits.”

Being able to make the deal for Vargas while retaining Bourjos and Trumbo made the trade especially appetizing, Dipoto said.

“It was very much a part of the plan,” he said. “Dating back to the start of this offseason and even as we were trailing toward the end of the 2012 season, it’s been a priority to us throughout to keep as much of our young nucleus in place as possible. With Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos in place, and growing forward with them, I feel this gives us the utmost flexibility with our team.”