The end of the Tyler O'Neill saga in St. Louis is finally upon us, as the Cardinals have traded the outfielder to the Boston Red Sox, both Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Jon Heyman of the New York Post are reporting. The Cardinals acquiring reliever Nick Robertson and prospect Victor Santos in return.
While the entire baseball world had their eyes fixated on the rumors and speculation surrounding Shohei Ohtani's free agency, it was the oft-injured Candian outfielder who was truly on the move. The Cardinals let the entire baseball world know their intentions to trade O'Neill at the Winter Meetings, and while there were those who had their doubts about the Cardinals finding a trade partner, the Red Sox took the bait. I discussed the ramifications of the move (and the weird Ohtani situation) in an instant reaction episode over on the Noot News Podcast.
O'Neill's career in St. Louis was once promising, coming over to the Cardinals in the Marco Gonzalez trade with Seattle and exciting the organization as a true five-tool player. In 2021, O'Neill finished 8th in Most Valuable Player voting, slashing .286/.352/.560 with 34 HR and 80 RBI while winning his second career Gold Glove and propelling the Cardinals to the playoffs.
Since then, the left fielder has played in just 168 games, posting a .707 OPS while friction grew with the organization regarding his health and availability. O'Neill now gets a fresh start in Boston, where he can try to regain his status as a middle-of-the-order bat with elite defense and speed.
The Red Sox were looking for some outfield help after shipping outfielder Alex Verdugo to the New York Yankees this week, and now add O'Neill to a lineup featuring Rafael Devers, Triston Casas, Masataka Yoshida, and Trevor Story.
Robertson was acquired by the Red Sox from the Dodgers in the Kike Hernandez trade, and although he struggled in his brief MLB debut this year, he has really good stuff and struck out 12.2 batters per nine innings in Triple-A this year. While his 6.04 ERA in 22.1 Major League innings may scare you, it's an extremely small sample size, and his 3.88 FIP and 3.91 xFIP indicate he was much better than that. The following story from Quinn Riley details the changes the Red Sox made with Robertson during the second half of the season.
After two bad outings with the Red Sox, they sent him down to Triple-A to work on some things. After adding a sweeper, making a few mechanical tweaks, and changing where he stood on the rubber, Robertson came back up to Boston in September and made seven appearances, six of those allowing zero runs, and the one outing he went multiple innings was a blowout loss to the Rangers where he got tagged for five runs. There's a lot to like about Robertson and he gives the Cardinals a reliever with six years of club control.
Santos, 23, is a right-handed pitcher who did not appear in any games in 2023 due to injury and looks to be more of an organizational depth arm than anything else. His fastball sits in the low-90s and has the potential to have two average-breaking balls, but he doesn't project to be anything more than a spot starter if he makes the Majors at some point.
Frankly, I was a huge fan of Tyler O'Neill during his tenure with the Cardinals, and although it was time for a fresh start for both sides, it's really disappointing to see his time with St. Louis end like this. The heights he reached in 2021 were some of the most exciting we've seen from a Cardinal in a long time, and even if he cannot reach that potential again, he still can be a valuable piece to a contending ballclub.