The 29-year-old Morales became expendable after the Angels agreed to a deal last week with free agent slugger Josh Hamilton. The Angels had been looking for a pitcher after losing Zack Greinke and Dan Haren to free agency and trading Ervin Santana.
Getting Vargas reunites the lefty with his former Long Beach State teammate Jared Weaver at the top of the Angels’ rotation. Vargas led Seattle in wins last season, going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA and pitched a career-high 217 1-3 innings. The 29-year-old is 36-42 with a 4.09 ERA in four years with the Mariners.
“Jason was what we were looking for on the market this year, just a steady reliable left-hander who can go out there. He’s got a history of pitching a high volume of innings and 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,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “So we’re thrilled to make the deal. We feel like this makes us a better, more complete and balanced team.”
Morales hit .273 with 22 home runs and 73 RBIs last season after missing the entire 2011 season after breaking his leg early in 2010 while celebrating a game-ending grand slam against the Mariners. Morales was at his best later in the 2012 season hitting .275 with 11 homers, 28 RBIs and an OPS of .827 over the final two months. Among its regular starters, no Seattle hitter had an OPS higher than .738 for the 2012 season.
Morales could quickly become the most productive hitter in the Mariners lineup. He would have led Seattle in home runs and been second in RBIs last season and could be even more productive with the Mariners bringing the fences closer in the outfield.
“We were going to try and come up with some type of offense and I think this worked out in a positive way,” Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
Zduriencik said the conversations with Dipoto became serious on Tuesday morning and the deal was wrapped up by midday on Wednesday.
Morales and Vargas each are eligible salary arbitration and can become free agents after next season. Morales made $2.975 million and Vargas $4.85 million last season.