Could Yankees swing trade for Tyler O'Neill after shocking Cardinals benching?
By Adam Weinrib
The St. Louis Cardinals have a pile of worthy outfielders competing for playing time, but it seems one of the strongest contenders may be playing his way out of the running -- or, rather, not running, which is why his star is dimming.
Tyler O'Neill, who drilled 34 homers with a 148 OPS+ (yes, with 168 strikeouts) in 2021 under Mike Shildt, saw his numbers dip significantly in 2022 (.228, 14 home runs in 96 games) and missed the Cardinals' short postseason with a hamstring issue.
Just a few weeks ago, he was supposedly rising up St. Louis' ranks as he raked at the World Baseball Classic, earning praise from his manager, Oli Marmol.
On March 17, Marmol commented on O'Neill's standing in the team's center field competition, saying:
"“It speaks to what his offseason looked like,” said Marmol of O’Neill, who remained in St. Louis much of the offseason while working with the team’s training staff to try to better prepare his body following an injury-marred 2022. “I am highly, highly impressed with how he came in physically and with his swing, but more impressed with the mentality. I think we’re going to see a different player than last year.”"- Oli Marmol on O'Neill
What a difference one week of the regular season can make. After Marmol perceived a lack of hustle on a play at the plate in Tuesday's showdown with the Braves, O'Neill was benched for Wednesday's contest.
Not only was his name out of the lineup, but Marmol didn't work very hard at all to protect his player and bury the reasoning.
Yankees Rumors: Cardinals Tyler O'Neill would be perfect, slugging fit in left field
We'd be willing to bet that wouldn't happen with the Yankees, who could really use some pop in the outfield. Hell, Aaron Hicks complained about his playing time and role last week and was rewarded with consecutive starts. Last season, he was pulled off the field after lolligagging on a fair ball against the Rays ... but started Game 5 of the ALDS in the Bronx. O'Neill would certainly get a chance to prove himself if acquired.
Clearly, having an overcrowded outfield -- even before Jordan Walker barged in -- didn't fuel O'Neill's competitive juices. The Yankees can guarantee him much more playing time from the outset, as long as he can fend off Hi --- haaaa, sorry, couldn't even get through it with a straight face.
While a good deal of the league probably wants to buy low on O'Neill, the Yankees have recent history swapping with the Cardinals that could favor their pursuit.
Last summer, they sent Jordan Montgomery St. Louis' way to acquire Harrison Bader, who's rehabbing and could return by the end of the month (and could put in a good word with O'Neill while he's on the shelf).
The Cardinals very much still need pitching depth despite acquiring Montgomery, and while the Yankees can't provide much in terms of big-league ready arms (while strapped themselves), they have an overload of pitchers in the minors. Could Matt Krook be in this deal? Will Warren? Drew Thorpe? Even after clearing the cache last summer, plenty of intriguing names still remain.
Hell, who knows? Depending on the progress of Carlos Rodón in a few weeks, this could be a landing spot for Clarke Schmidt, who still feels stuck in between in the Bronx.
Whatever it takes, the Yankees should probably be open to the conversation. Quick fixes for outfield struggles like O'Neill don't come around too often.