The Red Sox brought in outfield help on Friday night, announcing the acquisition of outfielder Tyler O’Neill from the Cardinals. Right-handers Nick Robertson and Victor Santos are going back to St. Louis.
O’Neill, 29 in June, has had a mercurial career but showed his tremendous ceiling as recently as 2021. He played 138 games that season, hitting 34 home runs. He struck out at a high 31.3% clip but hit .286/.352/.560 overall for a wRC+ of 143. He also received strong grades for his outfield defense and stole 15 bases. That all-around production led to a tally of 5.5 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs, whereas Baseball Reference had him at 6.1 WAR.
But the results since then have been less impressive, with injuries seeming to drag him down. In the past two seasons, O’Neill has hit the injured list due to a right shoulder impingement, a left hamstring strain, a lower back strain and a right foot sprain. He’s been able to get into just 168 games over those two campaigns, hitting 23 home runs and producing a batting line of .229/.310/.397. That amounts to a wRC+ of 98, indicating he’s been just a bit below league average.
It appeared that he had fallen out of favor in St. Louis over that time. In early 2023, he and manager Oli Marmol got in a bit of a spat, where the skipper publicly admonished O’Neill for a perceived lack of hustle. Though the outfielder pushed back on the idea that he wasn’t giving full effort and also seemed displeased with Marmol making the disagreement public.
As the Cardinals fell out of contention during the most recent season, it seemed as though O’Neill could have been traded at the deadline a few months ago, since he’s slated for free agency after 2024. But no deal materialized and he stuck with the club into the current offseason. In recent weeks, trade rumors surfaced and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak did little to quell them. “In the outfield, right now, if we were to play tomorrow it’d likely be [Lars Nootbaar], Tommy Edman and [Jordan Walker],” said Mozeliak during the Winter Meetings earlier this week. “Our fourth outfielder would be Dylan Carlson. … Tyler O’Neill is somebody that we are listening to on trades.”
But for the Red Sox, O’Neill makes plenty of sense. After they traded Alex Verdugo earlier this week, their outfield projects to have lefties Masataka Yoshida, Jarren Duran and Wilyer Abreu. The club also has righties Ceddanne Rafaela and Rob Refsnyder, but…