Seattle gives up one of its top three prospects for Gonzales, who is a former standout at Gonzaga and a 2013 first-round draft pick.
The search for starting pitching led the Mariners to St. Louis, or more specifically the Cardinals’ Class AAA club in Memphis and left-hander Marco Gonzales.
On Friday, general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired Gonzales from the Cardinals for power-hitting outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill. Gonzales will report to Class AAA Tacoma.
“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,” 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 made appearances in parts of three big-league seasons, posting a 4-2 record with a 5.53 ERA in seven starts and five relief appearances. His best stretch of big-league pitching came in three appearances in the 2014 National League Division Series against the Dodgers, going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA.
This season he’s spent most of the season in Memphis. In 11 starts with the Redbirds, he is 6-4 with a 2.90 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 17 walks. Since June 18, he is 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA (11 ER, 38.0 IP) with 33 strikeouts and eight walks in six starts.
Gonzales was a first-round pick (19th overall) out of Gonzaga in the 2013 draft. He lives in Seattle during the offseason. He missed part of the 2015 season because of left-pectoral injury and missed 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Though it was known that O’Neill would be available for a starting pitcher, most fans believed he would command a bigger return. However, with the demand of starting pitching at the trade deadline far outweighing the supply and Dipoto’s desire to find controllable pitching beyond 2018, the Mariners went to Gonzales. He made it clear on Thursday in a press gathering following the trade for David Phelps.
“We have talked to every team in the league regarding starting pitching, and the league demand greatly exceeds the supply,” he said. “And as a result, the asking price — you think we gave up a lot to get David Phelps? The starting market is particularly high in what the asking prices are in return. We’re going to be realistic in what we can afford to let go. If we are to give away the types of asks that are being requested in return for starting pitching, we want someone who’s not just sustainable for 2017 but for the foreseeable future. The only time we are likely to move what we think are our premium prospects is if we getting a guy who we think fits in our rotation not just for one year and probably not just for a year and a half but more along the lines of multiple years out.”
O’Neill, 22, was considered one of the top three prospects in the organization along with outfielder Kyle Lewis and pitcher Nick Neidert. In his first year at the Class AAA level, he was hitting .244 (85 for 349) with 54 runs, 21 doubles, two triples, 19 home runs and 56 RBI in 93 games with AAA Tacoma this season. O’Neill had started off slow this seasons, adjusting to the higher level and the assortment of breaking balls being thrown at him. But he’d picked it up in recent weeks.
Over his past 24 games, he hit .326 with a 1.192 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), four doubles, 13 homers and 30 RBI.
O’Neill came into the season as the No. 38 ranked prospect in Baseball America’s Top 100. He fell out of the BA’s midseason Top 100 after the slow start.
A third-round pick out of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, O’Neill was the Mariners’ 2016 Minor League Player of the Year after a dominant season at Class AA Jackson for which he was named the Southern League’s MVP.