When your team is 30th in average, OBP and OPS since the loss of Aaron Judge, adding a powerful bat at any position qualifies as a premium need. While we've worried in the past about whether the Yankees adding Tyler O'Neill will give them the thump they desire, a discounted pursuit of the slugger would improve their currently bleak outlook at least a little (as long as he's healthy).
O'Neill's everything that certain fans have grown to hate in the modern Yankees. He's an injury risk. He's got swing-and-miss to his game. He was benched earlier in the season for a perceived lack of hustle.
But ... can they really say no to the eighth-place MVP finisher from 2021 (34 bombs, Gold Glove, 148 OPS+, left-handed pitching masher) if he falls into their laps? We can. But can they?
Ever since that benching, we've drawn the connection between the jacked St. Louis slugger who's looked like a Yankee since the second he stepped foot in a big-league clubhouse.
MLB insider Jon Heyman banged the same drum again this week, penciling in a line between the two familiar trade partners.
Could Yankees trade for Cardinals slugger Tyler O'Neill?
Heyman quoted an anonymous scout as saying the Cardinals "don't sell," but they certainly haven't gotten any closer to capturing a weak NL Central at any point since their early May semi-surge (highlighted by a sweep over Boston, thanks for doing that).
Even if the Cardinals don't plan on having a fire sale, the Yankees know they love to retool. That's how "Harrison Bader for Jordan Montgomery" was consummated at last year's deadline. Could this be the spot for a "Luis Severino for O'Neill and a top 10 prospect" swap? We've already said too much...
O'Neill has been (gulp) very, very bad this season. In the 29 games he played before his balky back acted up, he OPS'd .620 and hit .228. Two weeks ago, he was shut down for an additional 10 days with the back issues that have plagued him all year. In order for the Yankees to surrender anything at all for O'Neill, they'll need absolute assurance that he can contribute. Otherwise, you're just trading to clog up another 40-man spot as you continue to run Billy McKinney out there every day.
If the Yankees could trade for the 2021 version of O'Neill, we'd give a hearty thumbs up to the transaction. But knowing how often this team's targets turn to injured mush as soon as they arrive in pinstripes, it seems particularly foolish to cut to the chase and acquire someone who's already battling a chronic injury and showing a lack of heart during the rare instances when he's on the field.
Unless they're actively trying to get strength trainer Eric Cressey fired. Then, giving him a problem like O'Neill to solve could prove beneficial.