Free up salary to win the Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweeptakes
Cardinals trade LHP Steven Matz, OF Tyler O'Neill, and OF Dylan Carlson to free up an additional $20 million in salary and target bullpen support.
Sign RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a record contract (prediction of eight years, $235 million plus a posting fee of around $35 million).
The Cardinals are very interested in Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Even if their public posture does not indicate as much, it's been widely reported that privately, they are extremely high on him.
Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat reported this weekend that even after the Sonny Gray signing, the Cardinals remain interested in Yamamoto and would be willing to go to the expected price range that Yamamoto will be signing for. In an interview I did with Jones on the Noot News Podcast recently, he went further into the connections between Yamamoto and the Cardinals, and that there are people in the Cardinals front office "screaming" for him.
Jones' sources really seem to indicate that the Cardinals are serious about a push for Yamamoto, and if they were to make that a reality, they'd likely need to cut costs through trade.
Steven Matz has been a rumored trade candidate and carries a $12.5 million salary for 2024 and 2025. The Cardinals would not need him with the addition of Yamamoto, so they could move him for bullpen help or prospects. Same with both Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson, who the trio being moved would save the Cardinals about $20 million and give them about $40m-$50m to spend before they even sign Yamamoto.
Assuming they get bullpen help in some of those trades, the Cardinals could use the remaining $10m-$15m of budget to improve the edges of the roster, or more likely, hold onto that space until the deadline where their needs would be clearler.
Getting Yamamoto would be a truly historic moment for the franchise. Not only would they be handing out franchise record contract, but they'd also have a true ace in just his age 25 season. Yamamoto would be huge for the Cardinals in 2024 but also be able to headline their staff for years to come.
Again, the Cardinals have the ability to make a huge move during the Winter Meetings, and doing so would vault them from a potential playoff team to a World Series contender. If the front office keeps their foot on the gas this week, they'll ace the offseason and be ready to compete with the best in the league.