By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
With baseball's non-waiver trade deadline approaching, the annual shuffle of both minor and major league talent is now in full swing as organizations begin to align themselves for a shot at postseason action or start swapping talent in an effort to build for the future.
This was the case on Saturday when the St. Louis Cardinals completed a deal that sent left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for the M's No. 2 prospect, Tyler O'Neill.
A native of Maple Ridge, BCm who grew up playing on Larry Walker Field, O'Neill was a third-round selection by the Mariners in 2013 and, as a rare Canadian-born right-handed batter, has slashed .269/.344/.505 with 89 home runs since making his affiliated debut after graduating the Langley Blaze as an 18-year-old.
Finishing second in all of affiliated minor league ball with 32 home runs during his first full season in the Mariners organization, O'Neill followed up his impressive rookie campaign by knocking another 24 round trippers and leading the Carolina League with 102 RBIs the following year. For his efforts, the Team Canada alumni captured league MVP honors and, after helping propel the Jackson Generals to a championship in 2016, also took home the postseason MVP award in the team's final season as a Mariners affiliate.
Through 93 games with triple-A Tacoma in advance of Saturday's deal, O'Neill posted an OPS of .807 with 44 walks and 42 extra-base hits over 396 plate appearances.
Five of his 19 home runs in 2017 had come over his last 21 at-bats.
"This was more of a traditional trade in the sense that O'Neill was an outfielder with upside in the Mariners organization and Gonzales was a pitcher with upside in our organization," explained Cardinals president of baseball operations, John Mozeliak in a written statement on Saturday. "If you look at the depth we have with the pitching in our system; it allowed us to make a move like this to improve. We are excited for Tyler to join our organization."
Gonzales, 25, has pitched in parts of two big league seasons, going 4-2 with an ERA of 5.53 across 40 2/3 innings. With the trade, he becomes Seattle's No. 7 prospect as ranked by MLBPipeline.com.
Expected to earn a major league promotion at some point during the 2018 campaign, O'Neill, a two-time Randy Echlin Award winner, which is awarded annually by CBN to the Canadian offensive player of the year, will report to the triple-A Memphis Redbirds where he will be reunited with his 2015 Pan Am coach, Stubby Clapp.
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