Breaking down the St. Louis Cardinals' arbitration projections

The Cardinals have nine players eligible for a new contract through arbitration this offseason. Who could be overpaid based on projections?
St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves
St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
2 of 5

Tyler O'Neill

After Tyler O'Neill's MVP-candidate season in 2021, he received a massive pay increase. He went from just over $500,000 in 2020 to nearly $3.5 million in 2021. Since then, he has seen only incremental increases as his production has plateaued and even decreased slightly. This year, Tyler was on the books for just under $5 million.

MLB Trade Rumors projects his 2024 contract to be worth right around $5.5 million, a 10% increase from 2023. While his production has declined since his 2021 season, it is still understandable that he sees a pay increase year over year. Arbiters and statisticians still have his strong 2021 season in the statbook, and with experience comes more money. Service time is one of the strongest factors in the arbitration equation.

To get an idea of a range of outcomes for O'Neill, we must look at comparable players of the past. Jorge Soler is an outfielder who recently exited the arbitration process. His final year of arbitration was in 2021, two years after he led the league in homers and played in all 162 games. His career slash line up to that point was .252/.335/.475 for an OPS+ of 115. He hit 92 home runs up to that point in 1,740 plate appearances, but he was a negative defender at all outfield positions. Soler received a contract worth $8.05 in his final year of arbitration.

O'Neill, contrarily, has a slash line of .248/.319/.435 for an OPS+ of 111 for his career. He has hit 78 home runs across 1,636 plate appearances, and he has been a plus defender in the corner outfield spots. He also showed an ability to play center during the World Baseball Classic. While it appears on the surface that $5.5 million is an overpay for an oft-injured player, it is a bit of a bargain when compared to similar players of the past.