Red Sox trade for 2-time Gold Glove OF O'Neill from Cards

December 9th, 2023

BOSTON -- The Red Sox filled a key area of need on Friday night, adding the right-handed bat of to their outfield via a trade with the Cardinals.

In exchange for O’Neill, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, the Sox traded a pair of depth arms in and Minor League righty .

Red Sox receive: OF Tyler O'Neill
Cardinals receive: RHP Nick Robertson, RHP Victor Santos

Robertson, a righty, came to the Sox last July in the deal that sent Kiké Hernández back to the Dodgers. Santos didn’t pitch last year as he recovered from an elbow injury.

With O’Neill, the Red Sox balance out an outfield that has three left-handed hitters in Masataka Yoshida, Jarren Duran and Wilyer Abreu. O’Neill joins Rob Refsnyder as right-handed-hitting outfielders who manager Alex Cora will have at his disposal.

With O’Neill on board, it seems more likely than not that Ceddanne Rafaela, MLB Pipeline's No. 3 Red Sox prospect and a brilliant defender in center field, will open the season at Triple-A.

The Sox traded veteran Alex Verdugo, another left-handed hitter, to the Yankees earlier this week for three right-handers.

Boston’s hope is that the 28-year-old O’Neill, who hails from British Columbia, can recapture his form from 2021, when he had a slash line of .286/.352/.560 with 34 homers, 80 RBIs and 15 stolen bases to finish eighth in National League MVP Award voting. That was the second year in a row that O’Neill earned a Gold Glove for his excellence in left field.

The past two seasons, O’Neill’s playing time dipped, largely due to injuries.

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said during the Winter Meetings earlier this week that the club was likely to trade O’Neill because it had decided to go forward with a starting outfield of Lars Nootbaar, Tommy Edman and Jordan Walker, with Dylan Carlson serving as the primary backup in 2024.

O’Neill made no secret of his desire to play every day, and the Cardinals agreed he deserved that chance, which played a role in the club trading him.

There was also his contract situation to consider. O’Neill is entering his final season before free agency and earned $4.95 million last season. Per Cot’s Contracts, O’Neill is projected to make $5.85 million if he goes to arbitration this winter.

It remains to be seen which outfield position O’Neill will play in Boston. The club could also move him around. In his career, O’Neill has made 324 career starts in left, 36 in center and 12 in right.

Given O’Neill’s athleticism and arm strength, the Red Sox might consider it a waste to play him in left, where there isn’t much ground to cover or throw. Though 2023 wasn’t a good one for O’Neill at the plate (.231, nine homers in 238 at-bats), he ranked in the Majors’ 89th percentile in arm strength and 80th percentile in sprint speed.

With O’Neill on board, the expectation is that Yoshida will spend more time at designated hitter than he did in his rookie season.