This was O’Neill’s first of three trips trough the arbitration process. He’s on track to reach free agency after the 2024 campaign. Future arbitration salaries are based on the platforms established in previous years, so the slugger will be working from a lower baseline than if he’d won the hearing. The Cards and his representatives at the Boras Corporation had been discussing a potential long-term deal that could’ve avoided the process entirely, but the sides obviously didn’t come to an agreement. With the hearing now in the rearview mirror, it seems talks about a multi-year pact will be put on hold — at least until next offseason.
O’Neill told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week the process was “definitely something that I am ready to have completed” but denied that its lingering into the season was having any effect on his performance. The 26-year-old is off to a rough start, hitting .198/.267/.317 with just a pair of home runs in his first 116 plate appearances.
Arbitration hearings are typically conducted over the offseason, but the unresolved cases were pushed into the season after the lockout halted winter dealings for more than three months. Arbitrators’ decisions are to be based solely off a player’s body of work up through 2021, so O’Neill’s slow start should not have been a factor in the result.