Yoshinobu Yamamoto was officially posted for teams to negotiate with last Tuesday, but now the heat is getting turned up on the sweepstakes for all parties interested, including the St. Louis Cardinals.
According to SNY's Andy Martino, Yamamoto will have Zoom meetings and phone calls with all interested teams next week. From there, Yamamoto and his agent, Joel Wolfe, will narrow down the teams and Yamamoto will meet with the finalists in person following the Winter Meetings.
I wrote on Saturday about how I am growing in my confidence that the Cardinals' will sign Yamamoto, but they are by no means the favorite. The fact that the final meetings with Yamamoto will come after the Winter Meetings gives him a ton of leverage in negotiations, and puts pressure on St. Louis to make deals at the meetings if they are presented with them.
Ultimately, they cannot walk away from this offseason without a starter at the top of the rotation worth of pitching in the first game or two of a playoff series. They need Yamamoto badly, but they cannot afford to miss out on Dylan Cease, Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, and Sonny Gray in the process.
The problem with Yamamoto waiting until after the Winter Meetings to have his final meetings is that it puts pressure on the Cardinals to act on a move if one is available during that week. If Snell is ready to sign, or one of their trade candidates is about to be moved, can they really afford to pass on them in favor of waiting on Yamamoto's decision?
Sure, if they feel really good about him signing, that's one thing, but if not, they really do need to be ready to pivot to another option. Because so many teams are interested in Yamamoto, other clubs could wait until after the Winter Meetings to make their signing or trade, so perhaps Yamamoto just slows up the market, rather than becoming the late resort for teams still needing an ace.
With Yamamoto having those preliminary meetings next week though, it's likely his market begins to take shape rather quickly, and we also find out which teams are "out of the running" in the near future. He has not set a timeframe yet for when teams will know, but if he wants to create leverage for himself, he'd be wise to let teams know who the finalists are prior to the Winter Meetings. This would allow those teams to go after other top-end starters available in free agency and trade, thus making the finalists for Yamamoto feel even more pressure to get a deal done.
We'll continue to keep you up to date on the Yamamoto sweepstakes here at Redbird Rants, as the Cardinals have the opportunity to make a franchise record signing here in the next few weeks.