4 takeaways from the Tyler O'Neill trade and its impact on the Cardinals' offseason

The Cardinals just traded Tyler O'Neill to the Boston Red Sox. They got back an interesting reliever but did not return a starter. What does this mean for their plans?
St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds / Kirk Irwin/GettyImages
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Takeaway 1 - They didn't get a starter.

I know this feels really obvious but just bear with me. I believe the Cardinals could have traded O'Neill to the Guardians for Shane Bieber. In fact, I believed it would happen. Now, I'm picking up the pieces of my shattered hopes and dreams. Let me take you through my thought process.

"Pitching, pitching, pitching." That's how John Mozeliak described his off-season plans earlier this fall. And it's exactly what he's done to this point. He's now added Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Sonny Gray. These signings are a mixed bag. There's some stuff to be optimistic about. Gray is coming off of an elite season. Kyle Gibson led the AL in quality starts last year. Lance Lynn racked up a ton of strikeouts. There are also some concerns. All three are aging. Lynn allowed a ton of homers. Gibson had a 4.73 ERA. Gray's season was somewhat of a career outlier.

All of that said, the Cardinals should go get one more starter. Barring a miracle run at Yamamoto, this arm probably comes from the trade market, where there are still plenty of exciting options. At the top of the market are Cease and Glasnow. Those options are risky and expensive. Cease is cost-controlled, but will likely cost Gorman or Donovan. Glasnow may cost less in terms of prospect capital, but he's due almost 25MM in 2024. There's also Shane Bieber.

Bieber was once one of baseball's best pitchers. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2019 before putting it all together and winning the 2020 AL Cy Young Award. He followed that up with an outstanding first half of 2021 before suffering his first serious injury. He bounced back nicely, finishing seventh in Cy Young Award voting in 2022 before missing most of the 2023 season. It must be noted that when he did pitch, the results were largely solid. He still managed to keep his ERA under 4.00, even with reduced stuff. His 3.87 FIP suggests that he wasn't too lucky, which is certainly an encouraging sign.

The new Shane Bieber probably isn't the same Shane Bieber who captured the 2020 Cy Young Award. He may never contend for one of those again. He may not even make another All-Star team. But, it still seems as if he's a capable pitcher. If he's healthy, it's worth pursuing him to patch up the holes in this rotation. He won't pitch at the front, but a 3.80 ERA makes for a fine number-three starter.

But why would Cleveland trade Bieber? The Guardians find themselves in a tough position. They're struggling financially in the midst of Diamond Sports Group's collapse. That's not exactly unique, but a team like Cleveland in one of baseball's smallest markets is more likely to suffer. Bieber is entering his final year of arbitration and will be worth nearly $15MM. The Guardians seem to be uncomfortable with that lofty price. They're also trying to win. They have an exciting group of young pitchers, headlined by Tanner Bibee, Triston Mackenzie, and Daniel Espino. However, they've struggled to develop impact bats. It's likely that a Bieber trade could bring one in return.

Before he was traded, O'Neill felt like the perfect return for Cleveland, who trotted out one of baseball's worst offenses in 2023. O'Neill, like Bieber, has trended down in recent seasons. Since breaking out in 2021, O'Neill has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness. Yet, there's no reason to assume that he can't still contribute to an offense in a positive way. O'Neill remains a talented and powerful hitter. It was exactly that power that would have made O'Neill attractive to Cleveland, which has been dealing with a severe power outage in recent years.

It's possible the Cardinals may have to add a bit more to this deal, though additional cash would likely have done it for Cleveland. There are even other players on Cleveland's roster, such as James Karinchak or Emmanuel Clase, who the Cardinals could have attempted to package together. They'd have had to give up more, but this could've allowed them to fix multiple holes at once.

But alas, Tyler O'Neill has been traded, and the Cardinals didn't go get Shane Bieber. O'Neill is a member of the Red Sox, and that cannot be changed. I reacted to this with site expert Josh Jacobs and site contributor Andrew Wang on the Noot News Podcast, as there was just so much to break down from this move for the Cardinals.

What does this mean moving forward? Are the Cardinals done adding starting pitching? (Hint, they shouldn't be!) We'll discuss three more takeaways from this deal in this article.