SAFECO FIELD -- Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto pulled off his second trade in as many days, acquiring left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfield prospect Tyler O'Neill.
Gonzalez, 25, was a former first-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2013 MLB Draft out of Gonzaga. He's appeared in parts of three major league seasons with the Cardinals, but has been hampered by injuries in recent seasons.
“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 released by the team. “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.”
Gonzalez was the Cardinals' minor league pitcher of the year in 2014. He missed part of the 2015 season after suffering a severe left pectoral injury. A torn elbow ligament in 2016 required Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss all of last season.
In 11 starts with Triple-A Memphis this season, Gonzalez 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 with 33 strikeouts and 8 walks in six starts.
The price to acquire Gonzalez was the loss of O'Neill.
O'Neill, 22, had been one of the top prospects in the Mariners farm system and one of the closest ones to the major leagues. He was batting .244 with Triple-A Tacoma with 54 runs, 21 doubles, two triples, 19 home runs and 56 RBI in 93 games. He had been batting .326 with 13 home runs and 30 RBI in his last 24 games with the Rainiers.
The cost of Gonzalez is relatively high in Seattle having to deal O'Neill to obtain him. However, starting pitchers are currently in high demand.
“We have talked to every team in the league regarding starting pitching, and the league demand greatly exceeds the supply,” Dipoto said regarding the state of the starting pitching market on Thursday. “And as a result, the asking price — you think we gave up a lot to get David Phelps (four prospects including OF Brayan Hernandez)?
"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.”
Meanwhile, the Mariners now have a stating pitcher in their control that could help them this year and for some time into the future. With Drew Smyly out for the year after Tommy John surgery and Hisashi Iwakuma still struggling to return from shoulder issues, the Mariners will need starters for the future as well. If Yovani Gallardo's reinsertion into the rotation doesn't go to plan, Gonzalez could be called up from Tacoma sooner than later.
Photo Caption: ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 1: Starter Marco Gonzalez #56 of the the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Washington Nationals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 1, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)