While the entire league was tuned in on the possible signing of a generational talent to a division rival, the Boston Red Sox answered the question of who will replace Alex Verdugo in the outfield in stunningly anticlimactic fashion. Who did they get to bolster their roster not only in the face of a potential Shohei Ohtani signing in Toronto, but an already confirmed Juan Soto trade in New York? Was it a big name? Was it someone with elite defense, or at least someone with a comparable bat to Verdugo's? Surely, it was someone who has played more than 100 games in either of the past two seasons. No?
All respect to Tyler O'Neill, whose trade from the Cardinals was announced by Jon Heyman during the comedown from all of the feverish Ohtani confusion. O'Neill is a two-time Gold Glover who placed eighth in MVP votes in 2021, his breakout year. However, the two years since have been plagued with injury that only allowed him to play 96 games in 2022 and 72 games in 2023. It'll be interesting to see what kind of language the Red Sox front office uses to justify O'Neill acquisition over any of the other, better outfielders on the free agent or trade market than him. Having been connected to a few outfielders that are comparatively less fragile and more productive at the plate and on the field, why did the Red Sox choose him?
3 free agents who would have been better for the Red Sox than Tyler O'Neill
Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reports that the Cardinals will receive Nick Robertson, a reliever who got a little over 20 innings in at the big league level this year, and Victor Santos, a prospect, in exchange for O'Neill. So, basically, the Red Sox got him for the baseball equivalent of pennies. Based on the other options the Red Sox were exploring ahead of this signing, this is a little inexplicable. Here are three free agent outfielders who would've been better for Boston than Tyler O'Neill.
The draw to Kevin Kiermaier is clear. Not only does he have the most piercing eyes in all of baseball, he is one of its best defensive center fielders. According to Baseball Savant, Kiermaier is ranked twelfth among all position players in fielding run value, and this during his age 33 season. Did you know that a Platinum Glove award existed? Well, Kevin Kiermaier has one on top of four regular ol' Gold Gloves. His performance in the outfield has hardly dipped at all as he's gotten into his 30s, which is why he's developed a reputation for being a brick wall for those fly balls that stay a little too close to the top of an outfield wall.
Kiermaier's bat has never been the best, but it has been a consistent one, and clearly his defensive ability has meant enough to teams to keep him in the major leagues and on their lineups for over 10 years. With Kiermaier, the Red Sox would've gotten less offensive production from Verdugo, but a much more reliable outfielder and one who wouldn't cause problems behind the scenes, at that. It could be that the front office's real issue with him was his price tag — he would've cost them a few million more than Tyler O'Neill will — but you have to wonder: at what point do the Red Sox care a little less about cutting costs and a little more about making their team the best it can be?