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Royals reportedly interested in Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill

Would O’Neill be an upgrade to the outfield?

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals are reportedly interested in trading for Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill, according to Jeff Jones, a Cardinals beat writer for the Belleview News.

The 28-year-old outfielder is a former Gold Glover who was a 6 WAR player as recently as 2021 when he hit .286/.352/.560 with a career-high 34 home runs, finishing eighth in MVP voting. But his hitting has fallen off drastically the last two years, and he hit .231/.312/.403 with nine home runs in 72 games this season.

O’Neill is a left fielder who can play a little center, and while he may not be a Gold Glover anymore, he is still a solid defender with a great arm and good sprint speed. O’Neill has improved his walk rate in recent year, but can also strike out a lot. He is a free agent at the end of next season, and is projected to make $5.5 million in his final year of arbitration.

The Cardinals currently have a glut of outfielders, and club president John Mozeliak has been blunt about O’Neill being on the trading block as the odd man out. Getting a player who is only under club control for one more season may not mean much in the long-term for the Royals, but he may be a good “buy low” candidate with the hope of flipping him mid-season if he returns to his 2021 form, and he could help give some protection to the young hitters in the lineup while improving the outfield defense.