4. St. Louis doesn't have as much influence in foreign markets as we think.
Despite a decent history of signing players from either Korea or Japan, it is possible the Cardinals don't have as much influence or appeal in foreign markets as we might think. Lars Nootbaar is trying his hardest to make St. Louis appealing to Japanese players, and he can talk up the city all he wants, but in the end, if the Cardinals aren't willing to expand their influence internationally, they are stuck.
Great players hail from Japan, but other countries also have plenty to offer in terms of talent. The international signing period is the best way to sign and attract players from countries like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Cuba, among others. Only seven players on the team's 40-man roster are from countries outside of the United States. Consistently successful teams such as the Dodgers, Astros, Rays, and Braves all outpace the Cardinals in this department.
The Cardinals were one of the first teams to build a development complex in the Dominican Republic back in 2015, but the team hasn't been able to reap the benefits of acting first in a market laden with talented players. St. Louis needs to act quickly and make themselves more enticing to foreign players. Japan beat the United States at last year's World Baseball Classic; no longer do the best players in the world come from America.
5. Yuki Matsui wanted to play in a big market.
This is perhaps the most important point. In any free agency case, the player holds the most control. What it mainly comes down to is where Yuki Matsui wanted to play. The financials were probably close enough among all of the teams interested in him. What it really comes down to is where Matsui wanted to play.
This has been a common theme throughout this offseason. Outside of Sonny Gray, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Jeimer Candelario, the biggest free agents have signed with a big market team, most often on either the East or West Coast. Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani signed with the Dodgers, Jung-hoo Lee signed with the Giants, Aaron Nola remained with the Phillies, Reynaldo Lopez went to the Braves, and Tyler Mahle signed with the Texas Rangers.
St. Louis is neither a big market nor is it on the coast. Matsui more than likely wanted to play closer to his home and in a time zone that is more convenient for his family and friends in Japan to watch. San Diego is two hours closer (in time zones) than St. Louis is to Japan, so this could have weighed on Matsui's decision assuming all other factors such as length, value, and contract opt-outs were the same. The Cardinals can't change their physical location, so this part of the discussion isn't much in their hands.
6. The Cardinals have another plan.
Brenden Schaeffer brings this up in his podcast that I mentioned earlier. If the price tag for Matsui was somewhere between five and eight million dollars, perhaps the Cardinals would rather spend that money elsewhere.
Dylan Cease would likely have a greater positive impact on the team than Matsui next year and the year after. He is projected to get $8 million through arbitration this year. Jordan Hicks, Phil Maton, and Hector Neris have statistics from playing in MLB; Matsui's stats aren't as clear cut. Maybe the Cardinals have a backup plan and weren't as committed to Matsui as fans initially thought.