St. Louis Cardinals: Takeaways from the Gonzales trade

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 02: Tyler O'Neill
PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 02: Tyler O'Neill /

Now that the St. Louis Cardinals have made a move during the trade deadline, what are the takeaways from it?

Yesterday was a pretty good day to be a St. Louis Cardinals‘ fan. The team smacked around the Chicago Cubs for a nine run eighth inning to go on to win 11-4. The Cardinals also promoted catching prospect, Carson Kelly. The Cardinals also made a trade for another outfield prospect.

The trade involved starting pitcher Marco Gonzales and Seattle Mariners’ prospect, Tyler O’Neill. The jury is still out on whether this favors either the St. Louis Cardinals or Mariners, but on paper it looks like the Cardinals won.

Like most of us, many Cardinals’ fans began wondering who is this Tyler O’Neill? Well, if it means anything, O’Neill slots in as the number four prospect in the entire Cardinals’ system. Not only is number four, but he is the highest rated outfield prospect the Cardinals have in the minors. He is also ranked seventy-fifth in MLB’s Top-100.

O’Neill has the tools of a big league right fielder. He is a former catcher, which gives him plus arm strength in the outfield. He is also known for his power bat. Scouts see him as a player that can produce RBI.

If there was one concern I have with O’Neill it’s the fact he was in the middle of rediscovering his swing in triple-A. I don’t want to compare him to Randal Grichuk, but I won’t ignore the similarity. However, based on the reaction out of Seattle on losing O’Neill, I think the St. Louis Cardinals made a good move.

"“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 wont provide the Mariners immediate rotation help for the stretch drive”-Seattle Times columnist, Larry Stone"

Now that a day has passed since the trade, lets take a look at some of the questions and takeaways I had from the trade:

1.  What is the plan for O’Neill?

2. What does the trade mean for players like Harrison Bader and Magneuris Sierra?

3. Now that the Cardinals see what pitching can bring in return, could they deal more pitching?

What is the plan for O’Neill?

As I mentioned above, O’Neill is the highest rated outfield prospect. Unfortunately, outfield prospects is the one thing the St. Louis Cardinals have too many of at the moment. With the gluttony of outfield prospects, one has to question why did we make this move for O’Neill?

The way I see it there are three paths the trade for O’Neill opens up. I’ll start with the most unlikely scenario to get it out-of-the-way.

The first path, is about as farfetched as it’s going to get. Recall that I mentioned O’Neill being a former catcher. Could it be possible the recent trade for O’Neill is a precursor to a  possible trade involving Carson Kelly?

Related Story: Kelly gets called up

I told you I was reaching here, didn’t I?

Look, this isn’t remotely close to what I think is going to happen. However, the thought crossed my mind, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me think. Kelly is too good of a catching prospect to give up, especially after showing what he can do in yesterday’s game.

It would be a shocking move to say the least, if that scenario played out. However, don’t bank on it.

The second path is way more realistic. The gluttony of outfield prospects only means one thing to me: trade. With as many rumors swirling around the Cardinals and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, the trade offers some clarity to what the Cardinals are trying to do.

The St. Louis Cardinals cannot continue to treat the oufield prospects as if they were pitching prospects. You can never have too much pitching. However, the amount of outfield talent the Cardinals have is borderline absurd. If the Cardinals are going to make a move for a big time player, then this is the moment.

Related Story: Outfield surplus key to lineup

All of that being said, it’s going to come down to which of the prospects do the Cardinals value the most. While O’Neill may be the highest rated outfield prospect the Cardinals have in their system, it doesn’t mean he will pan out that way.

I believe the Cardinals value Harrison Bader and Magneuris Sierra more than O’Neill for one reason only. Look at who they gave up to get O’Neill.

To Mr. Stone’s point, from earlier, Gonzales isn’t exactly the best pitching prospect the Cardinals have. No offense to Gonzales, but the Mariners made a move in desperation and the Cardinals came out on top. Had the Cardinals given up a Jack Flaherty or Luke Weaver for O’Neill, then we are talking about a completely different story.

With that being said, the only path I see for the O’Neill is that he will get packaged in trade himself for Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton. I think the Cardinals are doing everything they can to sweeten the deal. O’Neill plays the same position as Stanton and is capable of producing Stanton-like numbers in  the future.

It will take some prospects to get the deal done, but don’t be surprised if O’Neill is dealt again for either Marcell Ozuna or Stanton.

What about path number three? Well, that actually leads me to question two.

What does the trade mean for players like Harrison Bader and Magneuris Sierra?

Based on my previous question, you know I believe nothing will happen to either of the two players. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the contrary to my opinion. What happens if the St. Louis Cardinals value O’Neill more than the others?

The answer isn’t so clear-cut. While Bader and Sierra are great prospects, do they have enough weight to acquire the big bat the Cardinals need in the lineup. Packaging them together might get the job done, but it will also require some other prospects as well.

Sierra has shown what he can do at the major league level. He does need some fine tuning, but he also made the jump from double-A to the majors. That’s not an easy task.

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Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Bader this year. It may be a matter of time before that happens, but he, like Carson Kelly, has nothing left to prove in triple-A.

If the Cardinals were going to move a guy like Bader, then it would be now.

If the Cardinals value O’Neill more, then I expect one of the two names to be moved, possibly for a back-end bullpen piece. As I said, alone neither prospect carries the weight of a return for Ozuna or Stanton. The only obvious fill the Cardinals need is at the closer role.

Even if that is the case, who would the Cardinals look to for help? Zach Britton from Baltimore wouldn’t be a mad choice, nor would Justin Wilson of the Detroit Tigers.

It’s extremely unlikely all three of the outfielders are kept. One or more will have to go in order for the St. Louis Cardinal to compete with the rest of the NL-Central.

Now that the Cardinals see what pitching can bring in return, could they continue to deal other pitching?

At this point, it’s no secret I believe the Cardinals stole this trade from the Mariners, considering the two pieces. That being said, what else could the Cardinals receive from trading pitching?

Now, I’m not talking the likes of Jack Flaherty or Alex Reyes, but what about Lance Lynn or others that project in the range of Gonzales or better?

If the Cardinals can receive O’Neill for the service of a pitcher like Marco Gonzales, you would have to think the team will be a little more willing to move a Lance Lynn for the right price. Now, obviously this depends on whether the Cardinals are in the mix for the playoffs, but again, if there is a team acting on desperation, pull the trigger.

As great as Lynn has been for the Cardinals, the team must remain objective in securing a long-term success at the same time. Again, look at what was given tot he Cardinals for a pitcher with barely any major league experience. Multiply that by ten, and that’s what you would get for Lance Lynn.

Bonus question: Could Gonzales have been packaged with someone else for a major league ready player?

This is a special shout out to Mr. Fly Guy, a frequent commenter on our site. The short, and realistic, answer is probably not. This speaks to the value the Cardinals placed in Gonzales versus what other teams placed in Gonzales.

Based on what the Cardinals received for Gonzales, there wouldn’t be any indication the Cardinals would have received anything better even if he is packaged with someone like a Harrison Bader. At the very least, you would have received a fringe starter, someone like Grichuk, or possibly a starter like J.D. Martinez.

However, that brings me back to my point of perceived value. I don’t think the Cardinals were willing to shop for a rental because they know it means giving more than it’s worth. So, to move the likes of Gonzales for a MLB ready player, more than just a couple prospects would have to be involved.

That is something I know the Cardinals won’t do.

Next: Five bounce back candidates

I think the real motive behing the Gonales trade will reveal itself by the end of next week. Hopefully, the St. Louis Cardinals will continue to make the right moves in order to get the bat they need.