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.

Report: Major League Baseball bans transactions with Mexican League teams

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.

Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.

Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.

There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.