COMMENT: Remember when you were throwing shade on Tyler O'Neill? Stick to predicting Stanley Cup playoff rounds.
BENFRED: Ha! I don't think I've ever "thrown shade" on him, but I did say he's going to have to earn his at-bats and can't expect a competing Cardinals team to hand him a month's worth of at-bats without results that justify the time. This is not a slam of O'Neill. Like every player, he has to prove he belongs out there. And right now, he's clearly doing that. Monday night was impressive, clearly. In the past, when given these chances, he has had spikes of production, then leveled off, or had a hard time staying healthy.
To a follow-up question about whether the Cardinals should trade O'Neill now because of his rising value, BenFred replied:
I have pumped the brakes on O'Neill in the past. We just need to see more. But I'm not sure why the Cardinals would deal him if he keeps hitting like this. The Cardinals' lineup has become a desert. O'Neill is an oasis of power. Can it last? We don't know. Previous small sample sizes suggest he's a streaky hitter, and that could be the case for his career, but if he produces enough power, you live with the ups and downs and strikeouts. It's always about the power production for him. Always will be. He's here to mash. Everything else takes a back seat. And if he does not mash often enough, it's hard to play him. Simple as that.
Right now, he's mashing. And you are seeing how it brings life to this team. When you are trailing only the White Sox and Marlins in extra-base hits at the All-Star break, I don't think it's wise to deal the one guy who's forcing his way onto the scene with power, especially when Marcell Ozuna, the one guy hitting better than his career average, is out with a hand injury that could dent his power when he returns.
The Cardinals should not deal pieces that are currently helping this team. They should add pieces that help this team. This is not he season for lateral moves or roster maintenance. This team's goal was to win the division. This team handed out extensions that said there was confidence in this core this season and beyond. It's time to take a gulp and double down, because the standings say the Cardinals should.
The Cardinals desperately need offense. They know O'Neill can provide that in a major way. He's going to get his chances now. He has to keep capitalizing on them. So far, so good on this time around. And, if you remember, I am the one who pushed back against the "this is the last chance for O'Neill" narrative. He's 24 with big power. There will be more chances -- if he does not turn this one into the last one he needs.