Marco Gonzales could blossom into a commodity down the road. But Jerry Dipoto dealt one of his biggest assets without filling one of the Mariners' current holes.

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Jerry Dipoto’s latest trade – outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill to the Cardinals for left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales – is, on the surface, a head scratcher.

That’s not to say it’s bad, though that is certainly the understandable knee-jerk reaction I’m seeing on social media. When you have a touted prospect dealt for someone few had heard of (outside of Cardinal followers, minor-league aficionados, and fans of Gonzaga baseball), the initial feedback is going to be negative. Like all these kinds of deals, however, its success or failure will reveal itself slowly, and sometimes with temporarily false readings. Check back in 2020 and we’ll know something.

But here’s what it looks like now: The Mariners used one of their precious trade chips in O’Neill to get a pitcher who is coming off Tommy John surgery that cost him all of the 2016 season (as well as shoulder issues in 2015) and won’t provide the Mariners immediate rotation help for the stretch drive.

Now, it’s possible, if not probable, that the rest of baseball didn’t value O’Neill commensurately with his local reputation and impressive slugging stats. He does have holes and flaws that might be exploited as he moves up the line. But after a slow start at Triple-A, O’Neill has been torrid for the past month, and the hope (among fans, at least)  was that he would fetch an established pitcher if traded. The great fear, of course, is that O’Neill will blossom into a star, or even, dare we say it, a superstar in St. Louis. There’s no question he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-lineup slugger, and at a mere 22 has time to iron out his weaknesses.

The Mariners obviously took all that into consideration and decided it was worth the gamble to obtain a pitcher who was a 2013 first-round draft pick and listed as the Cardinals’ top prospect by Baseball America following the 2014 season. There was a time when Gonzales was considered a jewel in a very good St. Louis system – he won two games for them in the 2014 postseason — but that was before his elbow surgery. Now Baseball America’s scouting report isn’t exactly overwhelming: “Gonzales primarily relies on his 90-91 mph with his fastball with sink and mixes in a mid-80s changeup and low-80s curveball. He does not generate many swings and misses and fits a back-end starter/long relief profile if he can remain healthy.”

Back-end starters have a definite value, particularly in an organization like the Mariners that doesn’t have much pitching depth. They likely see much more potential for Gonzales than some others do, and may even envision him in their rotation later this year. Having a young, controllable (ie, under contract to the team for six years) pitcher is a valuable commodity. But only if the controllable pitcher is actually productive.

That remains to be seen. Gonzales may turn into an asset down the road (and they hope “down the road” is later this season). Meanwhile, the way I see it, the Mariners still have the same need today as they did yesterday – an established starter who will help in the stretch drive as they push for the playoffs.