Here are 5 things we can quickly learn from the Nola signing that should inform the rest of the Cardinals' offseason.
1. Aaron Nola wanted to return to the Phillies
Big-time free agents do not sign before Thanksgiving historically. So the fact that Nola re-signed with the Phillies today is a major sign that he wanted to stay in Philadelphia. It turns out he even turned down more money elsewhere to make that happen.
While John Mozeliak will never comment on the numbers that are offered in negotiations, he did tell Tom Ackerman on KMOX this morning that Nola's agents called him to let him know that Nola wanted to go back to Philly and their negotiations would be falling through.
Hopefully, we get some reporting in the coming hours or days about how aggressive the Cardinals were in their bidding, but it's clear that Nola was willing to take a hometown discount to stay with the Phillies. It's a tough break for St. Louis, and it's unclear how much money it would have taken to convince Nola otherwise.
2. Nola's deal may or may not make the rest of the market more affordable
For the last few weeks, Nola has been projected to get over $200 million from his free-agent deal, and he ended up falling way short of that.
Again, teams offered him more, so there's a willingness in the market to go higher. My guess is other teams will be equally aggressive with Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Sonny Gray, and the rest of the top of the market, but there's a chance that Nola's number could help stabilize some of the crazier prices that have been thrown out there.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto is going to get far more money than Nola did either way, so I do not see his market being impacted by this. Speaking of Yamamoto...
3. Yoshinobu Yamamoto is by far the best option available for the Cardinals in free agency, and they need to do everything they can to lure him to St. Louis
Like we just saw with Nola, at the end of the day, money matters a ton, but if Yamamoto wants to play in a large market or on a specific coast, there's very little the Cardinals can do about that.
With that being said, reports continue to link the Cardinals to Yamamoto due to the relationships they've been building in Japan, their relationship with Yamamoto's agent, Joel Wolfe, their strong desire to acquire him, and also a fun friendship that has formed with Cardinals' outfielder Lars Nootbaar.
Yamamoto is going to get well north of $200 million in his deal this offseason, and the Cardinals have to be willing to match the market and make Yamamoto make a decision. If they underbid on him, they have no one to blame but themselves. But if they match the best offer or offer him the most money on the market, then all they can do is hope Yamamoto decides to sign with them.
4. Did Sonny Gray just become even more likely for the Cardinals?
The other name they are consistently linked to is Sonny Gray, who just finished second in the American League Cy Young voting and would make for an excellent addition to the Cardinals' rotation.
The Cardinals do need to aim higher though.
Get Gray and Yamamoto. Get Gray and Dylan Cease. Get Gray, Glasnow, and a middle-tier arm who they can depend on for innings. Get Gray and Montgomery. Be aggressive.
5. The trade market is even more appealing now
There has been a growing sense that the trade market may end up providing the Cardinals with one of their best-starting pitchers this offseason, and honestly, I think it's even more likely now.
Whether it's Dylan Cease from the White Sox (trade ideas can be found here) or Tyler Glasnow from the Rays (packages for Glasnow are here as well), there are top arms available on the trade market that need to be considered by St. Louis at this time. Cease will be a painful trade to make due to the kind of talent you'd have to part with, but Glasnow would hurt more in terms of the dollars and risk of injury.
Nola was just one of the options on the market, so it's not time for the Cardinals or fans to panic yet. They need to be aggressive for the names that still are available though, and find a way to significantly upgrade their rotatoin this offseason.