There is one particular area in which the Cleveland Guardians struggled during the 2023 season. Production at the plate from their outfield bats. If this team is going to take a step forward and hopefully return to the postseason in 2024, they are going to need to rectify this glaring issue. And while there is a chance an internal option could help out in this department, the fact is they need to explore acquiring a player from a different organization to upgrade this group. One such player could be St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O'Neill.
O'Neill is entering his final year of arbitration on a Cardinals team that finished dead last in the National League Central this year. Also worth considering is the relative no-mans land that St. Louis appears to be in for 2024. Two of their best players are on the other side of 30 (Nolan Arenado 32, Paul Goldschmidt 36), and their big free agent signing (Wilson Contreras) is also on that side of 30 and may not be long for St. Louis. With all of this in mind, O'Neill could be acquireable for Cleveland if they are able to provide something of value to the Cardinals.
It was not too long ago that some considered O'Neill to be the best left fielder in all of baseball. O'Neill finished the 2021 season driving in 80 runs thanks in part to 34 home runs and 26 doubles to go with a .286/.352/.560 slash line and 143 weighted runs created plus.
Unfortunately, what followed was two years with injuries and a drop in performance at the plate. Slashing .229/.310/.397 with 25 doubles, 23 home runs, and 79 RBIs to go with a 99 and 97 weighted runs created plus. Even with the drop, O'Neill still had a better wRC + than that of Myles Straw (69) and Will Brennan (81), while being just short of matching Steven Kwan's league-average performance in this area (100). O'Neill is a player who would certainly benefit from a change of scenery, and Cleveland could be exactly what he needs.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that the Guardians are not going to break the bank with any sort of free-agent signing. They may take a similar approach to that of the previous offseason, but again those were not the blockbuster signings that other clubs make on a routine basis. Cleveland may add an outfielder through free agency, but it is more than likely going to a relatively unexciting placeholder whose time with the club has a definitive end date. Why not pair a signing like this with a flier on a player such as O'Neill? It would allow the organization to take a step towards playing competitively while buying time for their prospects in the minors who may not be ready or capable of playing in the big leagues at this moment in time.