Tyler O'Neill could make for a nice outfield solution for the Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers need an outfielder. Scott Harris has said that he would prefer that outfielder to bat right-handed. St. Louis Cardinals' outfielder Tyler O'Neill checks both of those boxes.
O'Neill is a former 3rd-round pick of the Mariners in the 2013 draft. He was traded to the Cardinals in 2017 for Marco Gonzales. He made his debut the following year.
He has dealt with injuries throughout his career. He was up-and-down from the majors and Triple-A his first two years because of them. In 2020, he won the Gold Glove for NL left fielders after putting up nine defensive runs saved and four outs above average.
He finally had his breakout season in 2021, where he slashed .286/.352/.560 with 34 home runs and a 144 wRC+. He also put up 5.6 fWAR. It looked like he was finally living up to the top prospect billing.
But in 2022, the injury bug bit him again and he only played in 96 games and never got it going. He slashed just .228/.308/.392 with a 101 wRC+. The Cardinals even sent him to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he played alongside several Tigers prospects with the Salt River Rafters, including Colt Keith and Parker Meadows.
O'Neill has tons of raw power. He has showcased it throughout his career. He has a career 45.7% hard-hit rate and 14% barrel rate. He has no problem squaring up the ball.
He can also fly around the basepaths and in the outfield. He consistently ranks near the top of the league in sprint speed according to Baseball Savant. His speed and defense would be a welcome addition to the Detroit Tigers' outfield.
But he also strikes out a lot at the plate and doesn't walk quite enough to justify it. He has a 30.9% career strikeout rate and 7.9% walk rate, which is just below league average. He did put up the highest walk rate and lowest strikeout rate of his career in 2022, for what it's worth.
O'Neill is still just 27 years old, so theoretically he should just now be hitting his prime. But it just seems like his days in St. Louis are numbered. It hasn't worked out for him there. So why not trade him to a team in need of an outfielder where he can get a fresh start?
O'Neill has two years of control left, so theoretically that would the give the Tigers an outfield of Austin Meadows in LF, Riley Greene in CF, and O'Neill in RF for the next two years.
The Cardinals are a smart organization. They aren't just going to give away a 27-year-old outfielder with two years of team control left. They're going to want a good return. Let's start with what St. Louis could seek.
The Cardinals didn't get much out of their starting pitchers last year until the trade deadline, where they acquired both Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana. However, the backend of their bullpen is what did them in during the playoffs. They had a two-run lead in the ninth inning in game one of their Wild Card series matchup with the Phillies before Ryan Helsley came in and blew the lead.
While the Tigers don't have much in terms of starting pitching to offer in a trade, they have a plethora of relievers to choose from. If I were Scott Harris, I'd let them pick which one they want. I'd imagine Joe Jimenez would be the one the Cardinals would go for.
The Tigers would probably have to throw in another prospect or two to get the deal done. I'd throw in Dillon Dingler because the Cardinals are going to need a catcher with Yadier Molina retiring. Dingler isn't quite big-league ready, but he could St. Louis' catcher of the future.
The Detroit Tigers need a right-handed hitting outfielder. Tyler O'Neill seems like a pretty good get if he stays healthy.