Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill has been out for three weeks with a lower back strain, and it’s taking longer than expected for the 27-year-old to get back on track. The original hope was that he could go on a minor league rehab assignment last weekend, but manager Oli Marmol said on Monday this week that O’Neill hadn’t progressed to the point where that could happen. MLB.com’s John Denton tweets that O’Neill resumed baseball activity yesterday but only in the form of light swings off a tee.
It’s not yet clear when O’Neill will head out on that rehab assignment, but it’s fair to say his absence will be lengthier than originally expected. The mounting scope of his absence is notable in multiple facets. First and foremost, it deprives the Cards of a potential high-end source of power. Health troubles have dogged O’Neill over the past two seasons, but as recently as 2021 he clubbed 34 home runs and swiped 15 bases while batting .286/.352/.560 in 537 plate appearances.
O’Neill’s absence also gives the Cardinals some additional runway to look at younger talent. Twenty-four-year-old Alec Burleson hasn’t logged everyday at-bats but has frequently remained in the lineup through some struggles, in part due to both O’Neill and Dylan Carlson currently residing on the injured list. Burleson has thus far mustered a rather punchless .258/.324/.290 batting line since O’Neill hit the IL, but it’s still valuable exposure to big league pitching for the promising slugger, who hit .331/.372/.532 in 470 Triple-A plate appearances last season.
From a larger picture standpoint, O’Neill’s injury further muddies the Cardinals’ outfield outlook as the summer trade season approaches. O’Neill and Marmol already had a public spat early this season after the manager suggested to the team’s beat writers that his outfielder hadn’t hustled at full effort when trying to score from second on a single to the outfield. O’Neill naturally disputed that notion and took exception to Marmol publicly airing his frustration.
The two have ostensibly put the issue behind them, but the Cardinals have a fairly well-documented battle for playing time in the outfield and O’Neill is only a year and a half away from reaching free agency. There’s been plenty of speculation about a potential trade, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale wrote over the weekend that Cardinals brass could indeed look into potential trades of O’Neill in exchange for rotation help this summer.
O’Neill only hit .228/.283/.327 with a 34.3% strikeout rate in 99 plate appearances before being placed on the injured list. The longer he’s out, the less time he has to show he’s righted the ship — and the greater the concern for any potentially interested trade partners. Given his injury troubles and that diminished production prior to the injury, it’s not a given that O’Neill will even have sufficient trade value to net the Cardinals meaningful pitching help.
That need for starting pitching is due both to a lack of starters controlled beyond the current season and the 2023 struggles of some current rotation members. Chief among them is lefty Steven Matz, one of just two current starters (in addition to Miles Mikolas) signed beyond the current season. Matz inked a four-year, $44MM deal in free agency in the 2021-22 offseason and has struggled to remain healthy and to pitch well when on the field.
The 31-year-old Matz was torched for a 6.39 ERA through his first six starts this year but looked to be turning a corner when he held opponents to four earned runs over 15 1/3 innings in three starts from May 7 through May 19. A date with the Reds at Great American Ball Park yesterday proved otherwise, however, as Cincinnati jumped Matz for six runs on 11 hits and two walks in just four innings of work.
Matz’s 5.72 ERA in 10 starts is even higher than last year’s 5.25 mark (15 games, 10 of them starts), which came in a season that saw the southpaw battle shoulder and knee injuries. Denton further reports that while the Cardinals have used six starters during their current stretch of 19 games in 19 days — Matthew Liberatore is slated for his second start this weekend — they’ll drop back to a conventional five-man arrangement after their coming off-days. The 23-year-old Liberatore, who’s been excellent in eight Triple-A starts — could push the struggling Matz off the starting staff, at least on a temporary basis.
Turning from a pair of players who are currently mired in some struggles to one who’s trending in the other direction, Tommy Edman discussed a key part of his recent hot streak with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The switch-hitting infielder has begun batting right-handed against certain right-handed pitchers whom he feels he can see better from that side of the plate. Rather than simply favoring the standard left-on-right and right-on-left platoon matchup, Edman is selectively favoring right-on-right matchups based on pitch shape, release point and other more granular data points — and thus far doing so with good success. He’s 5-for-14 with a pair of doubles and a triple in right-on-right matchups.
Edman elaborates on the finer details of his approach and how he selects which pitchers are best faced from which side of the plate. It’s a fascinating read from Goold with thoughtful quotes from both Edman and reigning NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt that’ll likely appeal to far more than just Cardinals fans. Edman’s fresh approach to switch-hitting makes sense in an era of increasingly specialized data, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more switch-hitters begin looking into it — particularly if it continues working well for Edman.
Rounding out a smattering of Cardinals-related topics, Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat tweets that lefty Andrew Suarez, who signed a minor league pact with the Cards after two-year run overseas (one KBO season, one NPB season), has an opt-out in his contract on June 1.
The 30-year-old Suarez has had an uneven showing in Triple-A Memphis so far, with a 5.08 ERA in 28 1/3 frames working as a multi-inning reliever. The bulk of the damage against him has come in three particularly tough outings, but Suarez has been scored upon in six of his 15 trips to the mound. He’s fanned 30 hitters in that time but also issued 13 walks, and his overall 22.9% strikeout rate and 9.4% walk rate are fairly pedestrian. Suarez had a nice rookie campaign with the 2018 Giants (4.49 ERA in 160 1/3 innings out of the rotation) and was outstanding in the KBO in 2021, but he struggled in Japan last season and hasn’t found his stride thus far in Memphis. He has a career 4.66 ERA in 202 2/3 big league innings.
Marmol needs to call out O’Neill on his lack of effort to heal and get back in the lineup.
Yeah I’m sure he’s rushing to get back to that crazy clubhouse with good ‘ol Ollie riding his hurt back
Old York: I agree. I think O’Neill should sit down and have a long chat with his innards and ask them why they’re not healing faster instead of intentionally lingering and preventing him from playing.
How is Dylan Carlson progressing?
From what I heard on the radio this morning, he’ll probably be back when the next homstand starts on Monday.
Matz came up with so much promise. Was a significant part of that 2015 NYM pennant team. Not sure what went wrong.
If you ask that crappy manager, he’d probably tell you it was Contreras’s fault
He only pitched in 35.2 innings that season. I can’t recall if he was a top rated prospect or something though? Tell me if you remember. I’ll take your word for it.
Matz’s main issue as a Met was keeping his composure. He would pitch like Sandy Koufax until he gave up a big hit or home run and then implode.
He seemed to turn it around in Toronto after leaving the Mets but apparently has regressed again.
Which team has the depth to trade from the rotation for an outfielder with only one more year of control? Seems like wishful thinking from Cards fans.
Exactly. And I’m a Cards fan. Not only one year remaining but not much value when you can’t stay on the field and you’re unproductive when you do play.
Even a team like CLE who arguably have more SP depth in their organization than any other franchise would probably only listen on their least effective pitchers like Plesac, Quantrill, and Civale at the deadline. Bieber could be had, but the cost will be considerable.
Cleveland has had some key injuries to SP lately. I mean, the Sox just took two out of three from them. McKenzie – who I would love to see a picture of him standing next to Vogelbach – will be back soon. That will give them Bieber and McKenzie at the top of the rotation. After that, I don’t know the team well enough to say who’s behind them. It’s too bad that Plesac lost it so fast and can’t seem to find it anymore.
The Cardinals will need to include a middle infielder to get a pitcher of value. There’s not much value in the available outfielders.
It depends on how well other teams project Burleson and Yepez to eventually develop. As they are now, they’re not that valuable, but 2 or 3 years from now they could become really good MLB hitters.
That’s not going to get a quality pitcher. Herrera might draw some interest. He’s hitting well at AAA and has no where to go.
It depends on how you define “quality.” Neither one of them is going to help much in getting an ace or a good starter with one or more extra years of control, but is such a guy even going to be available?
One or both of them could headline a package for a good #2-3 rental starter, though.
Please move Matz to the bullpen.
IRT Edman, people said that for years about Rivera. Some lefties could never see the break on the ball.
Which ever under-performing outfielder the Cards trade will go on to succeed elsewhere. See: Arozerena, Thomas, Garcia…
I think it’s still a little too early to call Lane Thomas a success. Yes, he’s had a great start to the year, but that’s still only 200 PAs, and he was nothing special before this season.
Every team had a chance to claim Garcia, and every team whiffed.
Thomas still sucks.
Thomas is having a good season.
.364 BABIP has gotten him .6 WAR and a 119 WRC+. He’s not sustaining that and he’s bad on defense even in the corners. Not someone that belongs on that list of misses by the Cardinals.
Fair enough, but he doesn’t suck.
Cardinals are currently soaring like eagles!
But eventually they’ll nosedive like a badly made paper airplane.
Why is that? They always had the talent to be this good. It was the terrible April and early May that was the huge surprise.
Oli, the bus driver, will run someone else over when things go sour.
Little Stevie Janowsky
Nurses have been pretty liberal with you lately huh
Nurse Ratchet plays with my head.
This team has a lot more weaknesses than just needing a starting pitcher. They’re finding out what happens when your entire outfield and most of your pitching staff are “We hope so’s.” The Cards and especially the fans (which I am one as well) have a long history of over hyping our prospects. Remember Jim Lindeman, Mike Laga, Geromino Pena, etc?
We’re seeing that now. Laga is most famous for being the only person to hit a ball out of the old Busch, even though it was foul.
The bullpen is just fine for the most part. They just get overworked at times when the starters don’t go deep into games. Meanwhile, Mikolas is back to his old self, Montgomery and Flaherty are good at least the majority of the time, and Liberatore is getting his chance. The pitching isn’t great, but it’s decent enough to hold up until the trade deadline.
As for the outfield, Nootbaar has been great, while Carlson and O’Neill will be back soon with the latter finally having a healthy back. Meanwhile, Edman and Donovan are showing off their versatility out there with DeJong’s bounceback and Gorman playing 2B when the DH is otherwise in use cutting into their playing time in the middle infield. Burleson and Yepez are also decent fill-ins when needed. It’s not a great set of outfield options beyond Nootbaar, but they generally get the job done.
Every team overhypes its prospects. See: New York Yankees.
Yankees don’t overhype!!
Jerry Kenney never got a fair shake!!
I’ll see your Jerry Kenney…
(Imagine Edward G Robinson in Cincinnati Kid)
And raise you Frank Tepedino and Chollie Spikes! (Crowd murmur…)
Ahhhhh, all I got is a Hensley Meulins and Jackson Melian.
Great film by the way,even with Peckinpaugh fired halfway through.
If I ran a team, I would definitely under-hype my prospects.
Burleson’s power has been been so non-existent for a guy of his size that it’s only a matter of time before it appears in force. There’s an element of randomness holding him down in addition to regular big league adjustments.
You’re really low-hanging fruit, cheeseboy. Wishing death on ballplayers? That’s as bad as it gets
Where did I say death? Now you’re just making things up to fit your narrative.
You reap what you sew, Slider. Enjoy all that lovely karma.
This one belongs to the Reds
Burleson…that dude looks like he trips over his own feet in the field. Is that just this series or is that a permanent condition?
And the one guy…he’s a real Nootbaar!
This one belongs to the Reds
I can see them selling the Nootbaar in St. Louis. Big merchandising opportunity, kind of like the Reggie candy bar.
Japan and St. Louis. They loved him during the wbc. Make that money hersheys
Watching that ninth inning must’ve been Helsley for St. Louis.