Yankees could trade for Cardinals slugger to bolster outfield

tyler o'neill, yankees
Apr 25, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Tyler O'Neill (27) scores a run during the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

At some point during this season, the New York Yankees must address their outfield needs, possibly through a trade. Given their struggles and ongoing injury concerns, General Manager Brian Cashman, who acquired Andrew Benintendi in 2022 at the deadline, may have no choice but to improve the unit.

One potential trade target is St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN, may be available due to a strained relationship with the Cardinals’ management.

A possible trade package between the Yankees and Cardinals could involve the Yankees sending one of their top infield prospects in exchange for O’Neill, a high-upside outfielder who hit 34 homers and recorded 80 RBIs in 2021.

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Yankees-Cardinals mock trade:

Yankees receive: Tyler O’Neill

O’Neill has demonstrated great potential when playing at his best, with his most productive season occurring in 2021. That year, he recorded a .286 batting average, .352 OBP, 34 homers, 80 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. He posted a 31.3% strikeout rate, a 7.1% walk rate, and a 144 wRC+. In the 2023 campaign, O’Neill has a .247 batting average, .307 OBP, two home runs, and six RBIs across 88 plate appearances, with an 89 wRC+. Despite these modest numbers, he has the potential to be a superb player with strong defensive skills.

O’Neill ranks in the 86th percentile for barrel percentage, 79th percentile for hard-hit rate, and 84th percentile for arm strength. He is a fantastic defender who consistently hits the ball hard, making him an ideal candidate for the Yankees. Although his on-base numbers could use improvement, he would instantly become one of the team’s top outfielders.

During this season, O’Neill has played 89.2 innings in left field with a .952 fielding percentage, 89 innings in center field, and a total of 178.2 innings in the outfield. As previously mentioned, his 2021 season was his best offensively and defensively; he has been trying to replicate that performance since. O’Neill remains under team control until 2025 and is earning just $4.95 million this year.

While the 27-year-old right-handed hitter may not be the left-handed power bat the Yankees are seeking, he possesses immense talent, speed, and the ability to steal bases effectively.

Cardinals Receive: Oswald Peraza, Luis Gil

In return, the Yankees would part with Oswald Peraza and Luis Gil. Peraza has played in 27 MLB games, recording a .257 batting average and a .375 OBP. In nine games this season, he has a .160 batting average, .323 OBP, two RBIs, and a 16.1% strikeout rate. An elite defensive player, Peraza is still developing his offensive skills. With Anthony Volpe securing the shortstop position, the Yankees could afford to use Peraza as a trade asset.

Gleyber Torres has started the season strong, and extending his contract may be the best option. While Peraza could potentially take over at third base in the long term, the Yankees still have DJ LeMahieu under contract and urgently need outfield reinforcements. Unless they are willing to wait for prospects like Elijah Dunham and Jasson Dominguez to be promoted, acquiring proven talent should be a priority.

In this scenario, Peraza represents a valuable trade piece, allowing the Yankees to secure an above-average outfielder to address their immediate needs.

The Yankees would also include Luis Gil in the trade.

At 24 years old, Gil has accumulated only 33.1 innings of MLB experience, posting a 3.78 ERA. He is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent last year, making it uncertain whether he will regain his previous level of performance. Nonetheless, Gil can reach triple digits with his fastball and possesses a high strikeout rate, showing considerable potential. Although he has significant upside as a starter, the Yankees may need to pay a premium to acquire an outfielder like O’Neill.

A more probable scenario involves Cashman seeking a less expensive acquisition with potential, similar to the Benintendi trade last summer. The issue is that the market is limited, and Cashman made no efforts to strengthen the unit during the past offseason, hoping that several players would step up.

Regrettably, Aaron Hicks has performed poorly, and Oswaldo Cabrera’s offense still requires development. The fact that Isiah Kiner-Falefa remains on the roster playing center field is a clear indication of suboptimal resource allocation.