Paul O’Neill had been a perfectly average right fielder in five full seasons with the Cincinnati Reds through the 1992 season, helping the Reds to a World Series title in 1990 and earning an All-Star nod in 1991.
But with a career .259/.336/.431 slash line over eight seasons, no one was expecting what would happen when the Yankees sent outfielder Roberto Kelly to the Reds to get O’Neill and minor league first baseman Joe De Berry.
It turns out that left-handed stroke was tailor-made for Yankee Stadium and O’Neill turned into a perennial .300 hitter with pop and run-producing talent galore.
O’Neill won the American League batting title in the strike-shortened 1994 season, hitting .359, and he was a four-time All-Star for the Bombers in his nine seasons in New York, playing with four World Series winners along the way.
He hit .303/.377.,492 in all with 185 homers and 858 RBI as a Yankee before retiring after the 2001 season, posting an OPS+ of 125 over that span.
He topped the 100 RBI mark four straight times from 1997-2000, with a career-best 117 in 1997 and oddly became a better base stealing threat as he aged. Of his 141 career stolen bases, more than half — 73 — came in his final five seasons, with a career-high 22 in 2001 at the age of 38.