Having too many quality players at one position is a good problem to have.
Even after giving up a pair of top prospects, that “problem” remains in the Mariners organization.
Tyler O’Neill, the Mariners’ second-ranked prospect according to Baseball America, was traded Friday morning to the St. Louis Cardinals for left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales. Gonzales, 25, underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2016.
The trade marked the second of three for Seattle this week; the Mariners gave up sixth-ranked prospect and outfielder Brayan Hernandez to the Marlins as part of a package that landed David Phelps, a reliever with 545 innings of big-league experience.
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The emergence of Guillermo Heredia, Mitch Haniger and Jarrod Dyson have bolstered Seattle’s outfield and left little room for players in the farm system to make a big-league appearance. Heredia and Haniger are 26, and Rainiers outfielder Boog Powell, who has played 23 games for Seattle this season, is 24.
“They’ve all factored into the depth in our outfield, which is better than last year,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “It could have just as easily been all those guys up there. It could have been Heredia. It could have been Dyson. It could have been (Leonys) Martin, but it just so happened to be Tyler O’Neill.”
The Mariners’ top prospect, Kyle Lewis, a top-20 MLB prospect according to MLB.com, is also an outfielder. The surplus of young, talented outfielders made O’Neill expendable, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be missed.
O’Neill batted .326 with 13 home runs and 30 RBIs in his past 24 games with the Rainiers. But Listach doesn’t think the hot stretch made an impact in the deal, but rather, O’Neill’s status as a top prospect is what led to his departure.
“Obviously we’re losing a talented player who hits in the middle of our lineup,” Listach said. “But we’re getting a pitcher who’s gonna help us in the big leagues, probably sooner rather than later.”
Infielder Zach Shank, who has experience in the outfield, took O’Neill’s spot Friday night at Cheney Stadium.
Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto reported another trade on Twitter a couple of hours before the Rainiers’ and Mariners’ games commenced Friday. Relief pitchers Jean Machi and Mark Lowe were sent to the Chicago White Sox for cash.
The trade will give Machi and Lowe, both in their mid-30s, an opportunity to once again pitch in the majors. The move could make veterans more apt to sign a minor-league contract with the Mariners in the future.
“I don’t think it’s feasible that (the Mariners) can catch the Astros, but we can definitely get into the Wild Card,” Listach said. “It’s not usually the best team that always wins, it’s the team that’s doing the best.
“ … Jerry (Dipoto) is going for it this year, which is promising.”