Angels trade Kendrys Morales to Mariners for Jason Vargas

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Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has been searching for rotation help and shopping extra bats, and MLB.com reports that he’s found a fit by trading first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales to the Mariners for left-hander Jason Vargas.

It’s a rare deal between division rivals, but the Mariners have whiffed on several free agent hitting targets and certainly need more quality bats in a lineup that ranked dead last among AL teams in scoring. After missing most of 2010 and all of 2011 with a broken ankle Morales bounced back to stay healthy and hit .273 with 22 homers and a .787 OPS in 134 games. The switch-hitter is eligible for free agency next offseason, so it’s a short-term pickup for Seattle.

Vargas has been a solid innings-eater for the Mariners during the past three seasons, throwing 217, 201, and 193 innings with a 3.96 ERA. Some of that is thanks to a pitcher-friendly home ballpark–from 2010-2012 he had a 3.46 ERA in Seattle and a 4.53 ERA on the road. Of course, the Angels’ ballpark is pitcher-friendly too, as a fly-ball pitcher Vargas will benefit from their strong outfield defense, and they’d probably take 200 innings of a four-something ERA from him happily. Vargas, like Morales, is eligible for free agency next offseason.

Good but not great first baseman/designated hitter for good but not great starting pitcher, both with one season of team control remaining. Seems pretty fair and fills obvious needs for both teams involved, which helps explain the willingness to trade within the division.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.