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While much of baseball waited with bated breath for a Shohei Ohtani decision Friday evening, the Red Sox and Cardinals synced on a smaller deal, as St. Louis dealt OF Tyler O’Neill to Boston in exchange for righthanded pitchers Nick Robertson and Victor Santos.
O’Neill, 28, once ranked as high as the No. 36 prospect in baseball in 2019 and is a two-time Gold Glove winner. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2021, hitting .286 with 34 homers and 5.5 fWAR. He hasn’t replicated that success since, playing in just 168 games over the last two seasons while dealing with an assortment of injuries and a growing logjam in the Cardinals outfield depth chart. O’Neill is also entering the final year of his contract.
Considering that, O’Neill’s status on the roster felt tenuous entering the offseason. President of baseball operations removed any guesswork earlier this week, admitting on an MLB Network Radio appearance the team was listening to offers on O’Neill.
He’ll get a chance to start fresh for a Red Sox team that essentially swapped O’Neill for the lefthanded hitting Alex Verdugo, who they traded to the Yankees in exchange for three pitchers earlier this week. The righthanded O’Neill represents a better fit for their current lineup considering the rest of their outfield mix – Masataka Yoshida, Jarren Duran and Wilyer Abreu – all hit lefthanded. Verdugo will also be a free agent after the season.
RED SOX ACQUIRE
Tyler O’Neill, OF
At his best, O’Neill is a righthanded power-speed threat that has traditionally fared very well punishing fastballs. But O’Neill has struggled to stay on the field in the big leagues. He dealt with foot and knee injuries in 2023 and a recurring hamstring issue in 2022 and posted roughly league-average production at the plate in each of his two seasons. He has appeared to have traded a bit of power for contact since his 2021 season, swinging at fewer pitches and toning down his chase while making more contact in the strike zone. As a plus runner and thrower, O’Neill should have little issue manning left field at Fenway Park or sliding over to center. O’Neill represents a potential buy-low candidate for new boss Craig Breslow and has considerable potential if he can remain healthy.
Nick Robertson, RHP
The 6-foot-6 reliever made his big league debut with the Dodgers in 2023 and was later traded to Boston in exchange for utilityman Enrique Hernandez. Robertson posted a 6.04 ERA and allowed 30 hits over 22.1 innings, although his xFIP was a more manageable 3.91. He’s strictly a reliever who prefers to lean on his mid-90s fastball and upper-80s changeup. His changeup is his best secondary, showing heavy tumble and fade, and fared well in the minors in 2023 but was hit hard in his 18 big league outings. Robertson also mixes in a sweeping mid-80s slider and throws every pitch with significant extension.
Victor Santos, RHP
The Red Sox acquired Santos from the Phillies in a small deal for infielder C.J. Chatham in 2021. He split time at the upper levels of Boston’s system in 2022 in a starter role, but did not pitch in 2023 due to injury. Santos’ low-90s fastball was up to 95 when healthy with armside run. He works in a mid-80s changeup that fades away from lefties and was his best swing-and-miss offering in 2022. He also throws a fairly generic low-80s slider. Santos has thrown plenty of strikes throughout his minor league career.He is back healthy and pitching again in the Dominican Winter League, where he owns a 2.96 ERA and 23 strikeouts over 27.1 innings.