Exploring the Cardinals' history of signing pitchers from Japan and Korea

The Cardinals have dabbled in the Japanese and Korean leagues for baseball players a few times recently. Which players did they pluck, and how did they perform in their time stateside?

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages
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Drew VerHagen

Drew VerHagen started his career in the United States with the Detroit Tigers. He began his career as a starting pitcher, but he transitioned to the bullpen in 2015. Injuries and underperformance led to his demotion and eventual release. He then went to play in Japan and restarted his career.

St. Louis made the first signing after the MLB Lockout was lifted during the 2022 season when they gave Drew VerHagen a two-year, $5.5 million. He had spent the previous two seasons pitching in Japan for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

During his time in Japan, VerHagen pitched 217.1 innings to the tune of a 3.51 ERA. He struck out nearly 25% of the batters he faced, and his walk rate was better than the league average. VerHagen was a master at inducing ground balls, which is part of the reason why St. Louis signed him. Their Gold Glove defenders would help VerHagen readjust to baseball in the States, or so the Cardinals hoped.

VerHagen's final season in St. Louis was last year, and he is now a free agent. While with St. Louis, he pitched 82.2 innings with a decent 4.68 ERA. His walk rates skyrocketed in 2022 (13.7%) to go along with a 1.892 WHIP and 6.65 ERA. His first season back in the United States was uninspiring, but he did rebound slightly last year.

VerHagen's return from Japan started out rocky, but he wasn't terrible in the end. Should Yuki Matsui or Woo-suk Go perform similarly to VerHagen in their first years in Major League Baseball, fans would be disappointed; however, VerHagen's career for the Fighters wasn't as admirable as Matsui's or Go's.

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