With the coming weekend series against the Texas Rangers comes the possibility that the Cardinals could decide to make a roster move and get Tyler O’Neill up to the big club again to serve as a DH for the series. However, this is not a foregone conclusion because Mike Shildt could opt for a stronger defensive outfield by playing Bader in CF, Fowler in RF, and allowing Martinez to serve as the DH. There is also Yairo Munoz lurking, who could warrant some time in this mix this weekend due to his strong recent play.
Meanwhile, Tyler O’Neill continues his assault on Triple A pitching, making it clear that he has proven all that he can at that level. In 44 at bats, O’Neill has already slammed 6 homeruns. For the mathematically challenged, that’s a dinger every 7.3 at bats. O’Neill can play all three outfield positions and play them well. For a ballclub that has recently seen a dormant offense surface, identical 2-1 losses to the Pirates over the weekend occur, and a shutout loss last night to the Braves, you would think there would be room for a guy with O’Neill’s power and run producing ability. The thing is, though, there isn’t really room. Marcell Ozuna, while not hitting for a robust average, is driving the ball over the fence this year. He’s your everyday cleanup hitter. Jose Martinez has essentially cemented himself in the lineup and looks poised to potentially compete for the NL batting title this year. Then, Dexter Fowler has enjoyed a resurgence and comeback player of the year candidacy so far this season, many that follow the team currently are calling for him to be inserted at the leadoff spot. Then you have the defensive prowess of Harrison Bader, a valuable commodity to have in late game double switches, especially in games where you lead.
So maybe O’Neill is just a year away, and needs to be patient, next year will be his time to step into an everyday role and show if he is the 30-40 home run guy many project him to be. Not so fast, especially if the Cardinals were to resign or extend Marcel Ozuna. Ozuna recently made news by switching agents from Scott Boras to Yadier Molina’s agent. In the current climate of extension happy teams and poor free agent markets, it isn’t far fetched to consider the idea that Ozuna signs on with the Cardinals with an extension. If that were to happen, your outfield next year would still be very crowded with the likes of the names already mentioned. They would all presumably be back. On top of that, you have names like Dylan Carlson, Randy Arozarena, and Lane Thomas as guys that represent outfield depth and talent in the organization.
Due to all of these factors, with the Ozuna decision being the most influential, it is worth wondering when or if the time is to move Tyler O’Neill in a deal. Deciding when and for who to move your top prospects is one of the tougher decisions facing any franchise. If Tyler O’Neill can be the centerpiece in a deal for a much needed starting pitching reinforcement, do you pull the trigger? Is his value as high now as it will ever be? My argument would be yes, it is. He would be an intriguing player to any organization as part of a swap at the deadline for a young talent in exchange for moving a veteran salary. In the offseason, maybe not as much. Especially if Ozuna were to re-sign and teams knew that O’Neill was a spare part outfielder for the Cardinals, they may not be as inclined to deal something of value for him.
Ultimately, if I am playing GM, I would show patience in this situation. Unless I could get a Bumgarner type talent with O’Neill as the centerpiece of a deal, I would hold on to the young slugger, even if it means more time at the Triple A level. Then for the 2020 season, I would make a decision between he and Bader, one of them would have to be my 4th outfielder (in a scenario where Ozuna is still here), because a clear cut 4th outfielder can receive a lot of at bats over the course of a season, and injuries could always allow for even more playing time. What would you do with Tyler O’Neill?
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