Only three days after sending outfielder Alex Verdugo to the New York Yankees, Craig Breslow has shown he isn't done dealing. This time, it'll be an outfielder coming in the other direction to Boston.
On Friday night, the Boston Red Sox acquired Tyler O'Neill from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for reliever Nick Robertson and minor league starter Victor Santos.
O'Neill, 28, is a right-handed power bat whose tendency to pull the ball should play well at Fenway Park. He featured primarily in left field in St. Louis, where he won two Gold Gloves, in 2020 and 2021. O'Neill also contributed sparingly in center field, but projects to play in the shadow of the Green Monster in Boston.
Only two seasons ago, O'Neill appeared to have cemented his spot in the core of the Cardinals' future. He finished eighth in the MVP voting in 2021, smashing 34 home runs, driving in 80, and hitting .286. After playing 138 games for St. Louis in his standout 2021 season, he has been limited to 96 games in 2022 and 72 games in 2023 due to injuries, while his numbers have also dropped significantly. The Red Sox will obviously hope that he can return to full health and his MVP votes receiving caliber season.
O'Neill had a public feud early last season with Cardinals manager Oli Marmol when the Redbirds skipper publicly accused O'Neill of not hustling on a play at the plate, leading to his benching. O'Neill defended himself against Marmol to reporters, and it's fair to wonder if that spat played at least somewhat influenced the franchise's decision to move on.
St. Louis, typically admired as the standard for consistency in baseball, lost 91 ball games last season, sending them into an uncharacteristic rebuild. The 91 losses were the most by a Cardinals ball club since 1997.
The acquisition of O'Neill will have a significant trickle-down effect on the rest of the Red Sox lineup. As last season progressed, the Boston showed a clear preference to use Masataka Yoshida at the DH spot over his left field position. Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow and manager Alex Cora were reportedly still weighing whether to employ an everyday DH or rotate players in 2024. This trade would presumptively settle that discussion (provided that O'Neill can stay healthy) and cement Yoshida as the team's primary designated hitter.
With Rafael Devers and Triston Casas set at the corners and Yoshida at designated hitter, this could potentially push Justin Turner out of town as well. Turner was one of the most productive hitters on the team last season, even at age 38.
As things stand now, the 2024 Red Sox outfield, left to right, will likely consist of O'Neill, Jarren Duran, and Wilyer Abreu.
O'Neill is estimated to earn $5.4 million following arbitration this season, and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2025.