The Cardinals have had a very active offseason so far. Not many teams have spent more than them in free agency this offseason, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have completely stolen the Sho(w) by spending over one billion on Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, not to mention trading for and extending Tyler Glasnow. With these moves, it doesn't seem likely the Cardinals will be able to compete at the top of the National League anytime soon. The Braves and Dodgers greatly overshadow anybody else. However, there are a few takeaways from the Dodgers' recent moves that the Cardinals can learn from to give them a better chance of advancing to the World Series.
I discussed the repercussions of the Yamamoto contract with fellow contributor Sandy McMillan recently on the Noot News Podcast, and here are some of the main takeaways from that discussion.
Lesson 1: International talent is no longer the "cost-effective" route
Up until the 2023 World Baseball Classic, talent coming from Japan and Korea was one of baseball's best-kept secrets. The Cardinals scored bargains with Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun Kim, both of whom headlined solid rotations at cheap prices. Even last year, Kodai Senga signed for an absolute bargain of just 5 years, $75 million with the New York Mets, and finished 7th in Cy Young voting.
However, as soon as Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout to clinch a world championship for Japan, all eyes were on the Japanese pitching market for the 2023 offseason. Of course, Ohtani signed with the Dodgers for 10 years, $700 million but more notably his WBC teammate Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who has never thrown a single Major League inning, signed the longest and richest contract for a pitcher ever at 12 years, $325 million.
Shota Imanaga, who has had a solid NPB career but not extraordinary by any means, is also expected to sign a deal north of $80 million. For a pitcher slightly better than the league average in Japan, that is a very hefty price. Instead of getting NPB talent at a discount like the Cardinals did with Miles Mikolas in 2017 (2 years, $15.5 million), overseas talent will now come at a premium.