Mariners Flip Tyler O’Neill for Marco Gonzales: Yawn or Yay?

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 13: Starter Marco Gonzales (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 13: Starter Marco Gonzales (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The Mariners made another deal today, trading outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill to the St. Louis Cardinals for left-handed starter Marco Gonzales. Who made out better in this AAA-player swap?

Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto is not one to stand pat at the Trade Deadline. Not all of his deals are earth-shattering, but he is constantly working to try to improve the Mariners. In trade season, with ten days left until the deadline, Dipoto, who already added veteran reliever David Phelps this week, swapped prospects with the St. Louis Cardinals. Will the move pay off?

The Mariners traded Tyler O’Neill, the second-ranked prospect in the M’s system, to the Cardinals for Marco Gonzales, a left-handed starting pitcher supposedly lost in a sea of good starting pitchers in the St. Louis system.

Mariners Paid Dearly with O’Neill

O’Neill is ranked as the 29th best prospect in baseball. He was a third-round pick for the Mariners in 2013. In 418 minor league games overall, he posted 300 RBIs to go along with 89 home runs and a .269 batting average. The 22-year-old led the California League in home runs in 2015 with 32 home runs.

TORONTO, ON – JULY 19: Peter Orr and Tyler O’Neill celebrating for Team Canada at the Pan-Am Games in 2015. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

This season, O’Neill hit .244 with 19 home runs, 56 RBIs, 21 doubles, and nine stolen bases in 93 games for the Mariners Triple-A team, the Tacoma Rainiers, in the Pacific Coast League.

O’Neill seemed like a hefty price to pay, but he’s been circled as trade bait before, mostly because of his young age and the logjam of outfielders the Mariners already have at the Major League level. Still, it hurts me a little to see Dipoto bid farewell to a promising young outfielder who has shown power and speed consistently in the high minors.

Who is Marco Gonzales?

Part of the reason why the Cardinals have been one of the most successful baseball teams over the past decade has been because of their pitcher development system. They keep churning out effective young pitchers at a good rate (examples: Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia (now with Atlanta), Alex Reyes, Michael Wacha, etc.).

Gonzales comes from a similar situation to O’Neill. With a bevy of arms at the Major League level, the Cardinals had pitchers to spare to pick up promising young outfielder.

Gonzales has limited Major League experience at age 25, and missed two full seasons with injuries, including a recent Tommy John operation.

The surgery has actually produced higher velocities for Gonzales’ pitches coming back. The Cardinals seemed to be impressed with Gonzales’ development so far, and indeed he’s been effective in his most recent AAA action:

That’s a fairly small sample size for the Memphis Redbirds (a member, like the Rainiers, of the Pacific Coast League), but for a left-handed, 25-year-old first-round pick, it’s at least promising.

Are the Mariners Better?

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Is Gonzales, a Gonzaga alumnus, on the verge of a breakout? Word is he’ll report to Tacoma for now. Did the TJ surgery fix whatever had kept him from flourishing at the big-league level? Will he make a difference for this year’s Mariners team? Next year’s? Time will tell. There seems to be more questions about Gonzales than answers.

We know that O’Neill could hit for power, but he’s had his struggles this year making contact in AAA. The problem for me is, at 22 years old, O’Neill could still very well develop into another Adam Jones-type outfielder, and it seems more likely for him to be a useful major-leaguer than Gonzales, who has an injury history (even though TJ surgery usually helps prevent future injuries), and a brief, yet bad history pitching in the major leagues.

Next: Mariners Acquire Phelps from Marlins

In a prospect swap, the returns are never immediately known, but it looks like the Mariners overpaid for another uncertain arm. What’s your take on the trade? An overpay or a worthy risk?