ST. LOUIS – It doesn’t seem too long ago that Tyler O’Neill and Tommy Edman earned their calls to the big leagues, but they’re now two of the longest-tenured position players with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Speaking together to media members Saturday at Winter Warm-Up, O’Neill and Edman are optimistic that the best is still to come. They’ll have a chance to prove it in 2023, starting with the World Baseball Classic.
O’Neill will represent Team Canada. Edman, whose mother is of South Korea descent, will make history as the first Team Korea player born in the United States.
“I think it’s great for the sport globally to see the players and representing the country, different platforms, different parts of the world,” said O’Neill. “It’s just a different feeling, you know? I’m really excited to be a part of that.”
“I haven’t really gotten the chance to represent my Korean heritage before, and to get to be the first Korean American player to play for that national team is a very special honor,” said Edman. “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s gonna be a lot of travel during the spring, but all the guys who have spoken to have played in the World Baseball Classic said that it’s one of the best experiences they’ve had. I’m very excited.”
Edman’s offseason preparations include a little more than his usual routine. He just started learning the Korean language. He’s also taking pride in learning more about the heritage of his wife and extended family.
“My sister always goes to Korea, and my grandma will go back to Korea, and that will be a fun experience for them,” said Edman. “And my wife has a Japanese side, so it kind of funny, a little rivalry. But she’ll be going to Japan and her parents will make a trip out as well. A lot of family out there in Asia. It’s going to be a really fun experience. And I know our families are excited.”
O’Neill and Edman both present a combination of pop, speed and fielding unlike many others in top form. The former Gold Glove winners are also the only Cardinals with double-digit home runs and stolen bases in each of the last two seasons.
Both began their offseason hitting and throwing programs several weeks ago with hopes for more consistency in 2023. However, their paths to taking the next step to elevate their game might look a little different.
O’Neill is hoping for a clean bill after the injury big bit him a few times last year. Working with Jim Edmonds this offseason, O’Neill hopes an accelerated start to his preparations will help him rekindle 2021 form, particularly from when he crushed 13 home runs in September alone.
“That’s where I want to be. I want to to be on the field with these guys. I want to help him win ballgames … I’ve spent the majority of [the offseason] here in St. Louis, working with the staff and we’ve really just taken it to a whole new level. … I really believe in what I’m doing again. I’m not getting away from what makes me ‘me.’
Edman, one season removed from a super utility Gold Glove nomination, might have finally found a home at one firm position for the first time in his career. He’s spent hours training and understanding the nuances of shortstop, a spot which he ended up playing most of his games by last season’s second half.
“I kind of approached it like I have in the past few seasons, in terms of my arm care, making sure I’m getting good carry on the balls,” said Edman. “Now that I’m playing on the left side of the infield, now that there’s no shift, I kind of focus more on those specific angles rather than having to work on both sides of the bag. It’s kind of simplified a little bit, and I’ll be going down to Florida toward the end of January [to prepare for the World Baseball Classic], so I’ll be I’ll be able to really hammer in my ground balls and getting all those reps once I get down there.”
O’Neill and Edman, both with one Top-10 NL War season to their names, will carry an important responsibility to bridge the gap between MVP hopefuls Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to newcomers and less-experienced players.
“As we move on in our careers, we have to make adjustments, and it’s definitely time for me to do some things,” said O’Neill. “I’ve done my due diligence.”
The Cardinals avoided arbitration with O’Neill and Edman this offseason with $4.95 million and $4.2 million deals respecetively for 2023. O’Neill has two more seasons of team control, while Edman has three.