Tyler O’Neill trade: Red Sox acquire outfielder from Cardinals days after moving Alex Verdugo

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The Boston Red Sox have acquired outfielder Tyler O’Neill from the St. Louis Cardinals, the teams announced Friday night. Righties Nick Robertson and Victor Santos are the return. O’Neill will essentially replace Alex Verdugo, who was traded to the AL East rival New York Yankees earlier this week

“As we look to add pitching depth, as well as address concerns on potential playing time in the outfield, we felt this deal worked well in addressing both of those issues,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said in a statement. “We are excited to add Nick to our bullpen, and we feel Victor gives us added depth in our minor league system.”

O’Neill, 28, authored a .231/.312/.403 batting line with nine home runs in 73 games around a foot injury this past season. He also butted heats with manager Oliver Marmol, who openly questioned his effort level. O’Neill has played left and center fielders in his career, and as recently as 2021, he slugged 34 home runs and had a 6.1 WAR season.

We ranked O’Neill (and Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson) among our top 25 trade candidates at the outset of the offseason.

It is sort of amazing Carlson and O’Neill are still Cardinals. They have been constantly mentioned as trade candidates for about two years now. O’Neill is entering his final season of team control, so there’s more urgency to move him. He’s also the more productive player and more likely to help St. Louis get back to the postseason next year than Carlson. Either way, Carlson and O’Neill have both gone backwards since what looked like breakout seasons in 2021. At minimum, both bring strong center field defense to the table, and other clubs will have interest in buying low on their bats.

With Masataka Yoshida expected to spend most of next season at DH, the only lock for Boston’s outfield at the moment is center fielder Jarren Duran. Rookies Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela are also in the mix, and now O’Neill gives manager Alex Cora a more veteran option for either left or center fields.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, still have a full outfield with Carlson, Alec Burleson, Lars Nootbaar, Jordan Walker, and possibly Tommy Edman as well. O’Neill has been on the trade block for at least a year, so the trade is hardly a surprise. The Cardinals flipped him for some upper level bullpen depth.

Robertson, 25, joined the Red Sox in the Enrique Hernández deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers at this summer’s deadline. He’s allowed 19 runs in 22 1/3 big league innings in his career. The 23-year-old Santos missed 2023 with injury, though he is currently pitching in winter ball.

O’Neill is entering his final season of team control. He is projected to make $5.5 million or so through arbitration in 2024.

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