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The St. Louis Cardinals don’t want to give Tyler O’Neill an extension just yet, in part due to his recent injury history.
O’Neill, winner of two straight Gold Gloves at just 26 years of age, is one year away from entering three straight offseasons of arbitration. It’s unsurprising, then, that talk of an extension has been brought up by fans and pundits alike.
Yet, despite O’Neill’s success both at the plate and in the field, the Cardinals don’t seem too interested just yet. St. Louis is thrilled as to the improvement of all three of their outfielders in O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson.
As Katie Woo of The Athletic writes, “O’Neill’s injury history is the most concerning.” It’s so concerning, in fact, that the Cardinals are more likely to add a fourth outfielder this offseason than extend O’Neill pre-arbitration.
Tyler O’Neill injury history: Cause for concern?
O’Neill’s long list of injuries started in 2018, with a left hamstring strain. Since then, he’s been forced to miss time with the following ailments: wrist, right groin, finger and back injuries. In 2018 and 2019, he played in just 61 and 60 games, respectively. Last season, he managed 138 games played.
He’s definitely trending upwards in that regard, but it makes some sense for the Cardinals to wait on O’Neill and battle it out in arbitration — or sign him to an extension next offseason — rather than jump the gun. If O’Neill can stay healthy another year in similar fashion to 2021, then obviously there’s very little to worry about.
As FanSided’s Robert Murray reports, the Cardinals also have plenty of roster flexibility as it pertains to their outfield. So, what’s the rush?
“The Cardinals’ reason comes down to roster flexibility. O’Neill is under contract until 2025. Harrison Bader, who is coming off a breakout season, is signed through 2024. Dylan Carlson is only 23 and under team control for the foreseeable future. The common theme? All of them are cheap and controllable, which is what teams covet these days — and it opens the door for them to spend money elsewhere on the roster.”
Eventually, St. Louis GM Mike Girsch will have to make a decision on O’Neill and the rest of the Cardinals outfield. But that time is not now.