Cardinals trade Gonzales for Mariners’ prospect O’Neill

The St. Louis Cardinals have traded left handed pitcher Marco Gonzales to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill today.

Gonzales, 25, missed last season after Tommy John surgery and has a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts for Triple-A Memphis this season. He made a spot start for the big league club this season, allowed 5 earned runs in 3.1 innings. The former first round pick owns a career 5.53 ERA in 40.2 innings at the big league level over 7 starts and 3 relief appearances.

O’Neill, 22, is currently hitting .244/.328/.479 with 19 HR in 93 games for Triple-A Tacoma this season. He hit 56 home runs over his previous two seasons in Double-A and High-A ball. A former third-round pick, he is rated as the Mariners’ #2 prospect according to MLB.com.

Before the 2017 season he was a consensus top-100 prospect, coming in 36th at MLB.com, 38th at Baseball America and 53rd with Baseball Prospectus. He fell off the midseason lists as he struggled early in the season, batting just .218/.287/.381 with 6 home runs through June 15th. In a little over a month since, he is hitting .303/.406/.697 with 13 home runs.

If you’d asked me a week ago what this club needed, I’d have answered with a power hitting corner outfielder who likes to strike out. Okay not really, butsome have compared him to Grichuk, unjustly I think. Yes, so far this season O’Neill has struck out 27.3% of the time. But his numbers also show that he knows how to walk too, walking 11.1% of the time. Compare that to Randal Grichuk‘s best season in AAA which revealed a 5.9% walk rate.

The Cardinals do have a glut of outfielders. The big league club has Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty signed long term, Tommy Pham hitting up a storm, and then Harrison Bader, Magneuris Sierra, Adolis Garcia, Randy Arozarena, and Oscar Mercado coming along in the minors. Now add O’Neill to the mix as the best of them and you have to wonder if a move is coming.

Another indicator of a potential trade coming is that the move of Gonzales didn’t just add O’Neill, it opened up a spot on the 40 man roster which now stands at 39.

The move of Gonzales also opens up a spot on the 40 man roster which now stands at 39. That could also serve as an indicator that another trade to deal out of that outfield prospect depth is on deck with a space now open without requiring a 40 man player be sent out in the same move.

Tuivailala, Gonzales up; DeJong optioned; Peralta released

The St. Louis Cardinals completed the option of infielder Paul DeJong by calling up RHP Sam Tuivailala from Memphis to join the big league bullpen. LHP Marco Gonzales was also recalled to serve as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader and IF Jhonny Peralta has officially been given his release.

This will be Tuivailala’s third stint in the big leagues this season. He has a 3.27 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 11 innings out of the St. Louis bullpen. Down in Memphis he holds a 1.65 ERA and 0.67 WHIP over 16 innings.

DeJong was optioned on Sunday, but the moves were not announced until the corresponding move was decided. DeJong hit .244/.244/.390 over 12 games while up and filling in for the injured Kolten Wong. Wong returned on Friday and DeJong has yet to play since, so he will be sent to Memphis where he can get playing time. After starting out well, DeJong struggled lately, batting just .154 over his final 7 games.

The move for Tuivailala returns to the Cardinals to 13 pitchers on their 25 man roster, which John Mozeliak told the UCB Bloggers this weekend is the preference of Mike Matheny and his coaching staff.

Gonzales is also called up to serve as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader and he is scheduled to start the night half of the doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers. This will be his first time in the Major Leagues since 2015. After missing all of last year with Tommy John, Gonzales has a 2.97 ERA in six minor league starts this season.

And finally, the Cardinals have officially given Peralta his unconditional release after designating him for assignment on Friday. The move was not unexpected, but the Cardinals likely placed him on waivers to see if they could avoid paying the remainder of Peralta’s $10 million salary, but after he went unclaimed went ahead and released him.

Five things about the Giants Series

The St. Louis Cardinals took the finale of a three game set against the San Francisco Giants over the weekend. They remain second place in the NL Central at 22-19, 1.5 games behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers and half a game ahead of the defending division champion Chicago Cubs.

The Cardinals now head to Los Angeles for a three game series as they head west for the week. The Dodgers (26-19) are 6-4 over their last ten and coming off a series against the Marlins that saw them win three of four.

A lack of production from the top

It doesn’t seem to matter who the Cardinals plug into the top-3 spots in the lineup this season, they struggle to get consistent production from them. In the Giants series the top-3 spots in the lineup went a combined 6-for-38 (.158) and it’s not unique to this series.

The top-3 spots in the Cardinals lineup are hitting .210 on the season. The only team worse has been Oakland, whose first three hitters are batting .194.

And why I say it doesn’t seem to matter who hits in that top-3? Let’s look at the three guys who have spent the most time in the #2 spot of the lineup. Aledmys Diaz is batting .194 in the #2 spot, .371 elsewhere. Tommy Pham is batting .105 in the #2 spot, .406 elsewhere. Randal Grichuk is batting .105 in the #2 spot, .258 elsewhere. Kolten Wong hit .188 in the leadoff spot while Fowler was out, has hit .315 elsewhere.

A bigger problem for the Cardinals is that this seems to have become a consistent thing. In 2016, the top three in the Cardinals’ lineup hit a combined .258 which ranked 25th. In fact, the Cardinals top-3 hitters haven’t ranked in the top half of the league in batting average since 2013, where they hit .298 and were ranked second. They went to the World Series that year.

The plus so far is that the back two-thirds of the lineup are carrying the team. The Cardinals four through nine hitters are batting a combined .288 on the season, best in baseball.

Martinez dominates

On Saturday, Carlos Martinez allowed just two hits and a walk over 9 innings of work and came away with a no-decision as the game remained tied at 0-0 when he exited the game. Martinez’s game score of 87 was the fourth best scored game this season and the best scored game where the starting pitcher took a loss.

You have to go back to June of 2015 where Chris Sale struck out 14 batters over 8 innings for a score of 92 in a 2-1 loss to find the last time a pitcher with a score of 86 or higher lost a game.

If I’m counting right, teams whose starting pitcher turned in a game score of 86 or higher had won their last 85 games.

And so did the rest of the starters

In addition to Martinez’s nine shutout innings, the Cardinals’ rotation was on it this weekend.

Michael Wacha was returning to the rotation after being skipped the last time through the rotation to give him added rest in the hopes it would help him avoid a recurrence of his stress injury later this season. He showed that he did not miss a beat, throwing 6 shutout innings on 4 hits and 3 walks.

For Adam Wainwright, it was important for him to come out and back up the 7 shutout innings he threw against the Cubs and turn in another quality start. And he did that, allowing 1 earned run over 6.1 innings of work.

Peralta returns

Jhonny Peralta returned to the starting lineup on Sunday night for the first time since rejoining the club on Friday. And since then, he has reached base five times in six plate appearances. Already a large improvement over his first two weeks of the season where he reached base five times in 27 plate appearances. He had pinch hits on Friday and Saturday before going 2-for-3 with a walk on Sunday.

Gonzales putting himself back on the map

Not a big league thing, but Marco Gonzales made his third start returning from Tommy John surgery over the weekend. He threw 6.1 scoreless innings of work for Memphis, lowering his ERA to 0.68. He has been dominant, allowing just 7 hits and 2 walks over his 13.1 innings of work in two Triple-A starts for a 0.68 WHIP as well.

For a team whose Major League bullpen is a complete mess, having Gonzales and Tyler Lyons on the horizon could be helpful.

Bonus: Pham story

If you haven’t already, go check out Derrick Goold’s story on Tommy Pham and how he’s dealing with keratoconus. I’ve often seen Pham giving himself his vision test and wondering why he did it and whether it was connected to his eye condition. It’s a good read of some of the struggles he’s had to work through, which makes the talent he’s shown all the more impressive.

Gonzales leads first round of cuts

The Cardinals began trimming their spring training roster today, assigning 11 players to minor league camp. The cuts leave 55 players in the team’s major league spring training camp plus those who are playing in the World Baseball Classic.

Left handed pitcher Marco Gonzales and infielders Eliezer Alvarez and Edmundo Sosa were optioned to the minors, with Gonzales headed to Triple-A Memphis while Alvarez and Sosa were sent to Single-A Plam Beach. Their Major League roster now stands at 37 players and will need to be trimmed further to 25 by Opening Day.

Gonzales is still completing rehab from Tommy John last April and had not appeared in a big league spring training game and may not appear in game action until May at the earliest. Alvarez went 2-for-13 this spring while Sosa went 1-for-7 with 2 walks.

Other players assigned to minor league camp were pitchers Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon, and Robby Rowland as well as catchers Andrew Knizner, Jeremy Martinez, and Dennis Ortega.

Alcantara and Gomber got the most playing time of this group so far. Alcantara made 5 appearances, pitching 8 innings with a 1.80 WHIP and allowing 4 earned runs. Gomber made 4 appearances, pitching 8.1 innings with a 1.20 WHIP and also allowed 4 earned runs.