St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill says his back is pain-free, and he could resume baseball activities this week.
Despite a pending return to the lineup, the most recent update on his back problems could complicate the team’s trade deadline plans.
Tyler O’Neill, who has had a tough start to his season, recently gave an update on the lower back pain plaguing his 2023 campaign. Even though it sounds like he’s on the right track to return to the Cardinals outfield mix, the ongoing back pain saga may affect his value on the trade market.
John Denton of MLB.com reports that O’Neill, who has been on the IL since early May, received multiple injections in his back on June 1 after seeking a second opinion from back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins. Now O’Neill claims that he can “see the light at the end of the tunnel” on his road to recovery from what was initially diagnosed as a back strain, per Denton.
“There was just a buildup from inflammation that wasn’t going away,” O’Neill told Denton. “And we think it was from the persistent spasms.”
Cardinals: Will contenders trade for Tyler O’Neill?
While the burly Canadian feels good about his current recovery regimen, there’s no timetable for his return to the field. What does this news mean for the Cardinals, who might be looking to deal the beleaguered outfielder before the Aug. 1 deadline, and for teams who might be interested in acquiring his services?
As much as the Cardinals may want to offload the struggling 27-year-old this season, it’s hard to imagine many teams parting ways with valuable assets for O’Neill. He currently holds a .228 batting average and .620 OPS through 29 games. In his limited action, he certainly didn’t appear to be returning to the 2021 form that garnered him MVP votes.
The two-time Gold Glove winner only played in 96 games last season, hampered by health issues that sent him to the IL on three separate occasions. Considering there’s no guarantee O’Neill will be able to get back on the field in time to provide proof of improved and sustainable health, he has minimal value as mid-June draws near.
Even if he makes it back into games in July, serious contenders may hesitate to take on the former 34-home run hitter with durability questions. While O’Neill’s flashes of talent may be tempting, teams know they can’t win the World Series on potential, especially if it comes with injury risk.