The Red Sox acquired outfielder Tyler O'Neill from the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, dealing for the powerful right-handed hitter whose upside has been curtailed by injuries but is expected to slot into Boston's everyday lineup.
The Cardinals, who received right-handed reliever Nick Robertson and minor league right-handed starter Victor Santos in the deal, had put O'Neill on the trade market this winter and expected to move him before the new year.
While the 28-year-old's breakout season two years ago looked to cement his place as a core member of the Cardinals going forward, the injuries as well as a public fight with St. Louis manager Oli Marmol paved the way for his exit.
When healthy, the two-time Gold Glove winner is an All-Star-caliber player. In 2021, he finished eighth in National League MVP voting, hitting .286/.352/.560 with 34 home runs and 80 RBIs. Over the past two seasons, he has played in 168 games, slashing .229/.310/.397 with 23 home runs and 79 RBIs while playing left field and center field.
In the first week of the 2023 season, Marmol called O'Neill's effort on a play in which he was thrown out at home by eventual NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. "unacceptable." O'Neill expressed frustration that Marmol had called him out in the media, and the Cardinals' poor start foretold a 71-91 season, their worst in more than a quarter century.
O'Neill, who is scheduled to make between $5 million and $6 million in arbitration this season and will reach free agency after 2024, is the latest acquisition by new Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow. In his first trade, he received right-handed reliever Isaiah Campbell from the Seattle Mariners for third baseman Luis Urias. His biggest deal sent outfielder Alex Verdugo to the New York Yankees for a trio of right-handed pitchers: reliever Greg Weissert, who should join Boston's bullpen this season, prospect Richard Fitts and the 6-foot-8 Nicholas Judice.
The Cardinals' outfield surplus -- with Lars Nootbaar in left field, Tommy Edman in center, Jordan Walker in right, Dylan Carlson capable of playing all three and Alec Burleson -- allowed St. Louis to target much-needed pitching depth.
Robertson, a hulking right-hander, debuted with the Los Angeles Dodgers this year before he was traded to the Red Sox in July as part of the Kiké Hernández deal. Robertson, 25, went 0-1 with a 6.04 ERA in 22.1 innings and pairs a 95 mph fastball with a changeup and a slider.
Santos, 23, is a control artist with a mediocre fastball and an intriguing split-fingered fastball. He underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the 2023 season. The previous year, between Double-A and Triple-A, he went 10-12 with a 4.97 ERA in 145 innings, with 126 strikeouts, 34 walks and 23 home runs allowed.