From Comcast SportsNetSEATTLE (AP) -- The Los Angeles Angels got the pitching depth they wanted. The Seattle Mariners got the power-bat they so desperately needed.Two foes in the AL West found a way to work together Wednesday when the Angels traded switch-hitting slugger Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for left-hander Jason Vargas, filling needs for both teams.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.The Angels added a left-hander to their rotation, while Seattle got a hitter that can instantly take a spot in the middle of its order."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. "Both players are at the end of their contracts."Getting Vargas reunites the lefty with his former Long Beach State teammate Jered Weaver at the top of the Angels' rotation. The duo played college ball together in 2004 and now will be counted on in helping make the big money the Angels spent on Hamilton and Albert Pujols last season pay off."I'm back home in California now," Vargas said. "It's perfect."Vargas grew up in Southern California where his father coached high school baseball. He used to watch his second cousin, infielder Randy Velarde, play for the Angels in the late 1990s.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."In his career, Vargas is 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 85 innings pitched against the Angels.A flyball pitcher, Vargas is excited to have an outfield that includes Rookie of the Year Mike Trout and Hamilton."Those guys out there behind me is outstanding," he said.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 2012, 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 said his leg got progressively stronger through last season and has felt 100 percent during offseason workouts."It's allowing me to work this offseason for the first time since about two years back," Morales said through an interpreter. "Following workouts and what I'm doing, I'm feeling no pain, no inflammation. So at this point I would say I feel 100 percent."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 potent with the Mariners bringing the fences closer in the outfield.In 34 career games at Safeco Field, Morales is a .292 hitter with a .904 OPS, seven home runs and 23 RBIs."I thought it was a situation where we could acquire a middle of the lineup bat, and a switch hitter. And here is a guy who played in this division, here is a guy who knows the American League. I thought that was really good," Zduriencik said.Zduriencik said the conversations with Dipoto became serious on Tuesday morning and the deal was wrapped up by midday on Wednesday.The acquisition of Morales will instantly boost Seattle's offense but also creates a log-jam of with catcherdesignated hitter Jesus Montero and first baseman Justin Smoak. Morales started just 28 games at first base last season, but Zduriencik said they are confident he could play in the field. He's also hopeful that Montero comes to spring training ready to be the everyday catcher."As long as we create competition and as long as we have these pieces in spring training we'll see what happens," Zduriencik said. "I don't have the exact answer. We've certainly talked about a lot of scenarios and feel very comfortable that there will be enough at-bats to go around for all these guys but at the end if you've added a piece that you think makes your club better, that's just better."Morales and Vargas each are eligible for salary arbitration and can become free agents after next season. Morales made 2,975,000 and Vargas 4.85 million last year.
This became a three-ring circus on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager Joe Maddon screaming at the umpires, the video board showing the replay of Curtis Granderson’s swing and the crowd of 42,195 booing and chanting “BULLS#$!!”
The Los Angeles Dodgers are still in command of this National League Championship Series, but the Cubs won’t go quietly into the offseason, unleashing All-Star closer Wade Davis for the final two innings of a 3-2 thriller that kept them alive for at least another night.
The Cubs can worry about the daunting task of winning three more elimination games in the morning. Once Davis forced Cody Bellinger into the double-play groundball that left Justin Turner stranded in the on-deck circle and this one ended at 11:16 p.m., he pulled at his right sleeve and buttoned the top of his jersey while waiting for the Cubs to start the high-five line. “Go Cubs Go” blasted from the stadium’s sound system and fireworks erupted beyond the center-field scoreboard and Davis acted as if nothing had happened.
To put the idea of beating the Dodgers three times in a row in perspective, the Cubs blasted three homers and got a classic big-game performance out of Jake Arrieta and still needed Davis for a heart-stopping, high-wire act.
Maddon already ruled out Davis for Thursday night’s Game 5 after the closer fired 48 pitches – or four more than he did during last week’s seven-out save that eliminated the Washington Nationals. But at least the Cubs will have those decisions to make instead of cleaning out their lockers.
“I don’t know,” Davis said. “We’ll definitely come in tomorrow and get some treatment and go out and play catch and see how I feel.”
It looks like Davis doesn’t feel anything on the mound. Davis didn’t react to Turner chucking his bat and yelling into the visiting dugout after crushing a 94-mph fastball for a home run to begin the eighth inning. Davis didn’t seem bothered by Yasiel Puig flipping his bat after drawing a walk. And Davis never lost his composure while Maddon got ejected for the second time in four NLCS games.
Maddon flipped out at home plate umpire Jim Wolf – and really the entire crew – when what was initially called a swinging strike three on Granderson got overturned and ruled a foul tip.
“Wade doesn’t care about any of that,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “That’s the right guy to have on the mound. With the mentality he has, he’s going to strike the guy out on the next pitch. Obviously with the replay, it’s not easy to keep your composure. But he’s just different. He’s a different animal.”
While the fans at Wrigley Field got loud and turned angry, Davis chatted with catcher Willson Contreras: “I was just trying to think of the next pitch I was going to throw if he ended up staying in the box.”
Davis got Granderson (0-for-4, four strikeouts) swinging at strike four, walked Yasmani Grandal and then blew away Chase Utley with a 95.1-mph fastball, needing 34 pitches to finish the eighth inning. Davis wasn’t finished, using a Kris Bryant bat to hit against Dodger lefty Tony Cingrani, fouling off five pitches before striking out looking at a 94.9-mph fastball.
“Yeah, I gave up there after a little bit,” Davis said with a look that sort of resembled a smile. “He was bringing it pretty good, and I hadn’t seen a baseball in a while coming in like that.”
If the Cubs are going to match the 2004 Boston Red Sox – the only other team to come back from an 0-3 deficit since the LCS format expanded to seven games in 1985 – they are going to need the offense to generate more runs, a great start from Jose Quintana on Thursday night and someone else to run out of the bullpen. Not that Davis is ruling himself out for Game 5.
“Go get some sleep and then come in tomorrow and start getting ready,” Davis said.
It’s not Jake Arrieta getting greedy and the Cubs being cheap when he holds up another jersey in a different city this winter, smiling for the cameras while super-agent Scott Boras watches the press conference unfold, marketing an ace to a new audience.
Even Arrieta admits that if he had Theo Epstein’s job, he would do the exact same thing, letting it play out until a 30-something pitcher hits the free-agent market. And Epstein wouldn’t have left the Boston Red Sox and taken over baseball operations at Clark and Addison if he didn’t believe in the need for change, to get outside the comfort zone and test yourself.
It’s just business, but this still felt very personal on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Arrieta probably making his last start in a Cubs uniform while the defending World Series champs survived an elimination game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Three straight trips to the National League Championship Series might have spoiled Cubs fans to the point where standing-room-only Game 4 tickets were selling for $60 on StubHub less than an hour before the 8:01 p.m. first pitch.
By 10:13 p.m., the crowd of 42,195 started booing when manager Joe Maddon popped out of the dugout in the seventh inning to take the ball from Arrieta after 111 pitches. It turned into a standing ovation as Arrieta walked off the mound and tipped his cap, his shaved head set against a mountain-man beard.
“Hopefully, it’s not a goodbye,” Arrieta said after a dramatic 3-2 win, surrounded by reporters at his locker. “It’s a thank you, obviously. I still intend to have another start in this ballpark.
“If that’s where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there. But we’ve won four in a row plenty of times this year. And there’s no reason we can’t do it again.”
So many times, Arrieta has been worth the price of admission, must-see TV through two no-hitters and those two World Series games he won on the road last year against the Cleveland Indians. None of this would have been possible without the Cubs finding a winning lottery ticket in that Scott Feldman flip deal with the Baltimore Orioles on July 2, 2013.
“I took a little bit of extra time in between pitches,” Arrieta said, “just to look around, foul pole to foul pole, behind home plate, just to relish it and take it in. You got the fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope. It breeds some added energy.
“I had that mindset of I’m going to do everything in my power to get it to tomorrow.”
Arrieta’s pitches dart and dive in directions that even he can’t always control, but he has guts, swing-and-miss stuff (nine strikeouts) and the ability to work through traffic. He gave up five walks, hit Chase Utley with a pitch and watched as Cody Bellinger hammered a ball off the video-board ribbon in right field for a third-inning homer.
But lefty reliever Brian Duensing backed Arrieta up with two outs and two runners on in the seventh inning, forcing Bellinger to lift a flyball into shallow left field, keeping it a 3-1 game and setting the stage for a two-inning Wade Davis save.
“Jake was amazing,” Davis said. “He was throwing Wiffle balls, it looked like. Guys were just swinging at balls that started in on the zone and finished a foot off the plate. He’s just got some amazing stuff.”
For perspective on how far this franchise has come, just look at the lineup from Arrieta’s first spot start as a Cub, the second game of a July 30, 2013 doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field:
David DeJesus, CF
Junior Lake, LF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Dioner Navarro, C
Luis Valbuena, 2B
Starlin Castro, SS
Cody Ransom, 3B
Cole Gillespie, RF
The Cubs actually sent Arrieta back to Triple-A Iowa for two more starts that summer, part of a mental/mechanical reset and the service-time calculus that would delay his free-agency clock by a year.
By 2015, Arrieta’s raw talent and natural confidence converged with a young, inexperienced team that caught fire in the second half, his Cy Young Award campaign fueling 97 wins and the momentum for chairman Tom Ricketts to authorize a spending spree on free agents that almost totaled $290 million.
"That was pretty special,” Maddon said. “I've never witnessed on the field that kind of consistent performance from a pitcher. It was other-worldly, right down to the wild-card game.
“My God, you pretty much knew if you scored one or two runs, you're going to win that night somehow. I don't know how this is going to look moving forward. But I know one thing, man, that one year of watching him play was different. It was a throwback to the ‘60s kind of pitching (I watched) as a kid.
“He's special – his work ethic and who he is and how he goes about his business. He's a very special young man.”
But Arrieta really isn’t in the mood to wonder if this is the end scene to this chapter of his life.
“There’s a little thought of that, yeah, because you never know,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, now that the game’s over, it’s out of sight, out of mind. The thought process for me now is to be ready if I’m needed.”