BY SPNW Staff 11:09AM 07/21/2017

Mariners deal top prospect O’Neill for pitcher

The Mariners surrendered their top position-player prospect, slugging OF Tyler O’Neill, to St. Louis for Marco Gonzales, a lefty starter who will begin his Mariners career in Tacoma.

Marco Gonzales had Tommy John elbow surgery after the 2015 season and missed all of 2016, returning to action at AAA Memphis in May. /

The Mariners Friday acquired LHP Marco Gonzales from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for minor league OF Tyler O’Neill, who was widely considered the top prospect and best position player in Seattle’s minor league system. Except for making a spot start against Milwaukee June 13, Gonzales has toiled in the minors this season as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.

“Marco is a quality athlete with high character and a strong pitching pedigree who we feel fits our roster well in both the near and long term,” club GM Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “We find his current performance, preparedness and proximity to the major leagues to be very appealing traits in a pitcher, particularly a young lefty who is now under club control through the 2023 season.”

Gonzales, 25, has appeared in 12 games over parts of three MLB seasons (2014, 2015, 2017) with the Cardinals, compiling a 4-2 mark with a 5.53 ERA, including seven starts. In addition, he appeared in six innings over three games in the 2014 post-season against the Dodgers and Giants, going 2-1 with 3.58 ERA.

A plus for the Mariners is contract control. Gonzales won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2020 and won’t reach free agency until 2023. His elbow-ligament replacement surgery cost him all of 2016 and did not return to game action until May at Class AAA Memphis.

In 11 starts at Memphis, he went 6-4 with a 2.90 ERA. Since June 18, he is 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA.

The 6-foot, 199-pound lefty has twice been listed by Baseball America as having the best change-up in the Cardinals organization (2013 and 2014). In 2014, he was named the Cardinals minor league pitcher of the year.

Gonzales missed part of the 2015 season after suffering a severe left pectoral injury.

Gonzales, who resides in Seattle in the off-season, was selected by St. Louis in the first round (19th overall) of the 2013 draft out of Gonzaga University. He won the John Olerud Award as the nation’s top collegiate two-way player in 2013 after being a finalist for the award in 2012.

O’Neill, 22, hit .244 with 54 runs, 21 doubles, two triples, 19 home runs and 56 RBIs in 93 games with Tacoma this season. He struck out 108 times while drawing 44 walks and posted a .328 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage.

He recently adjusted his swing choices and had good results: 13 home runs in his past 24 games and a .326/.413/.779 slash line.

The native of Burnaby, B.C., appeared in three games for Team Canada in this year’s World Baseball Classic. He went 1-for-11 (.091) with 1 walk and 5 strikeouts.

The Mariners selected O’Neill in the third round of the 2013 draft out of high school. In parts of five minor league seasons in the organization, O’Neill, son of Mr. Canada powerlifting champion Terry O’Neill, hit .269 with 89 home runs and 300 RBIs.

The move by Dipoto to improve the pitching staff was his second in two days. Thursday he acquired RHP David Phelps from the Miami Marlins for three Class A-level prospects.  Dipoto paid a heavy price to land Gonzales, who will begin his Mariners career in AAA Tacoma as he works his way back from elbow surgery.



  • twistandturns

    Ugh, trade arguably our best hitting prospect for a pitching prospect with elbow concerns. Not too excited about this.

  • Tonic99

    Hoping against hope that DiPoto knows something that hasn’t been publicized as to why this is a good deal. You just know O’Neil is going to light it up with Cards right? Is there really any doubt about that?

  • Ken S.

    Like all trades only time will tell if this works out for the M’s. Tommy John surgery has proven to be more of a hit for the first operation of this kind, with somewhere around 85% success rate. A second replacement surgery has only a 35% success rate.The M’s seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to trading prospect for prospect. Here’s hoping this one works for the M’s.