How the Cardinals could land Roki Sasaki at an affordable price in 2024

Reports indicate Roki Sasaki has a contract clause allowing him to be posted early to MLB in 2024 giving the Cardinals the perfect chance to sign him affordably
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan / Gene Wang/GettyImages

After a few weeks of rumors, Japanese news site Tokyo Sports has seemingly confirmed that 22-year-old Chiba Lotte Marines flamethrower Roki Sasaki negotiated a clause in his contract allowing him to be posted to Major League Baseball whenever he wants. The NPB posting deadline has come and gone, but Sasaki expressed interest in making the jump to MLB this offseason but ultimately did not force a move. However, next offseason, it appears very likely he will be available to American teams.

Like Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani, Roki Sasaki will likely be posted to MLB early, forgoing the ability to sign an unrestricted free-agent contract. Like Ohtani, Sasaki would be treated as a prospect and the team that signs him would have three seasons of pre-arb control and three seasons of arbitration. Thus, any Major League team would have the financial ability to sign Sasaki should they choose, and the Cardinals should be all-in and start recruiting him now.

The Dodgers are one team that has already expressed tremendous interest in landing Sasaki's services. Combining him with Shohei Ohtani and Yamamoto at the head of their rotation would make them not only one of the most formidable rotations of all time but also cement them as the most marketable MLB franchise in Japan ever. However, with many Japanese-born players historically avoiding each other in the Majors due to cultural reasons, teams without Japanese-born players may have a better chance of landing Sasaki.

The Cardinals should have a fairly good chance of attracting Sasaki as their passionate fanbase and decorated history are known worldwide as being some of the best in baseball. Moreover, Lars Nootbaar's close friendship with his Samurai Japan teammates from the 2023 World Baseball Classic, including Roki Sasaki, could give him a sense of comfortability in St. Louis. According to reports, Nootbaar's mother and Sasaki's mother are also close friends and she was a major part of the attempt to bring Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the Cardinals.

Yamamoto didn't sign with the Cardinals, of course, but that was mostly due to financial reasons. The Cardinals would not have signed him to the record-setting contract given to him by the Dodgers, but Sasaki will not demand any financial constraints for the team he signs with. It's time for the Cardinals to get to work recruiting Sasaki, as they may never find more guaranteed success from a pitching prospect ever again.