Posted on July 21, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
With the trade deadline looming, the trades are starting to come in hard and fast for the Seattle Mariners. Of course, considering the history of Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto, that shouldn’t be a surprise. One day after acquiring reliever David Phelps from the Marlins, the Mariners have added starter Marco Gonzales to their injury-plagued rotation in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. Going to the Cardinals in a one-for-one swap is Mariners outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill.
Gonzales first reached the big leagues in 2014, making five starts and five relief appearances for the Cardinals that year. He then pitched out of the St. Louis bullpen during the postseason. At the time, Gonzales appeared to be yet another talented pitcher the Cardinals had developed in their farm system. However, he has struggled with injuries since then. Gonzales made one big leagues start in 2015 and then missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing elbow surgery.
This season, Gonzales has made just one start for the Cardinals. He gave up five runs and lasted just 3.1 innings in a start against the Brewers in June. However, Gonzales has posted a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts at triple-A this season. That could indicate that he’s healthy and ready for another opportunity in the majors. He may get that opportunity with the Mariners, a team desperate for rotation depth.
The Mariners know that Drew Smyly will not be back this season after requiring Tommy John surgery. Seattle is also waiting for Hisashi Iwakuma to return from the DL. Iwakuma is currently on a minor league rehab assignment after going to the DL in May with shoulder trouble. The Mariners have already used 13 different starting pitchers this year, but have still failed to solidify the back of their rotation amidst all the injuries. If nothing else, Gonzales gives them another option.
However, to get a pitcher with good upside like Gonzales, the Mariners had to part with O’Neill, who’s one of their top prospects. According to MLB.com, O’Neill is the 29th best prospect in baseball. This year in triple-A, O’Neill is hitting .244 with 19 home runs and 21 doubles. That comes on the heels of winning Southern League MVP at the double-A level last year.
O’Neill is viewed as a middle-of-the-order hitter, so he is a big loss for Seattle’s farm system. However, the Mariners are getting a great year from Mitch Haniger, who appears to be their right fielder of the future, making O’Neill somewhat expendable.
Instead, it will be the Cardinals who may benefit from O’Neill’s power. It remains to be seen whether or not St. Louis will bring O’Neill to the big leagues with the hope that he can contribute this season. The Cardinals do lack depth in the outfield with Stephen Piscotty banged up and Randal Grichuk just returning from injury on Friday. Even if he doesn’t get called up this year, O’Neill may end up battling with Piscotty and Grichuk for playing time in the years to come.
“This was more of a traditional trade in the sense that O’Neill was an outfielder with upside in the Mariners organization and Gonzales was a pitcher with upside in our organization,” explains Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. “If you look at the depth we have with the pitching in our system, it allowed us to make a move like this to improve. We are excited for Tyler to join our organization.”
In this trade, both teams have received a player who may be able to help them down the stretch this season. However, each team is also getting a young player with considerable upside who should be able to contribute next season and for many years to come.