The St. Louis Cardinals are connected to a long list of starting pitchers this offseason, including Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto. If league sources are correct though, the Cardinals may struggle to convince Yamamoto to come to St. Louis, even if they offer a large contract.
In Will Sammon's latest piece for The Athletic (subscription required), he reported that Yamamoto "covets the opportunity to play in a large market', according to league sources. While the Cardinals are a historic franchise, a large market probably points to the likes of the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, and perhaps even teams like the Cubs or Red Sox.
I don't think a report like this should end any hope of the Cardinals acquiring Yamamoto, but if that's how he truly feels, it will require the Cardinals to outbid the market and present themselves as a unique destination that Yamamoto could thrive in.
Yamamoto has a strong relationship with Lars Nootbaar after becoming teammates during the World Baseball Classic and shares an agent with Nolan Arenado. The Cardinals also have a strong business relationship with the Orix Buffaloes and have worked to build a great network in Japan in recent years. Nootbaar and Arenado were just in Japan this past week and witnessed Yamamoto's playoff start in person.
The Cardinals have been one of the teams scouting Yamamoto, and for good reason. Yamamoto went 17-6 with a 1.16 ERA while winning the pitching Triple Crown (wins, ERA, and strikeouts). He's just 25 years old, so any team getting him is likely getting an ace entering his prime. That is just so rare to find in the free agent market, which is why he'll likely receive a record contract for players coming over from Japan.
As the offseason officially begins, it will become clearer who the true suitors for Yamamoto are. The Cardinals should not be ruled out right now, but I think most of us thought they'd have a hard time competing with the likes of the New York teams, Los Angeles, or San Francisco anyway.