#2 - Yariel Rodriguez (NPB, did not play in 2023)
Yariel Rodriguez is one of the most interesting pitchers on the market this offseason simply because there's not that much known about his ability. He was an electric reliever in 2022, winning Central League Setup Pitcher of the Year after posting a 1.15 ERA through 54.2 innings across 56 relief appearances, but he wants to enter MLB as a starting pitcher. If Rodriguez was seeking a role as a setup man, he'd be at the top of this list, but it seems like he will only sign with a team that offers him a starting job.
Rodriguez's experience as a starting pitcher is extremely limited. He made two starts for Cuba in the 2023 World Baseball Classic and that's pretty much it. In his first start against the Netherlands, he allowed just one earned run across 4 innings pitched on 3 hits and 1 walk. He also allowed just one run in Cuba's victory over Australia but was shakier as he only went 3.1 innings and walked 5 batters. Control has always been a bit of a problem for Rodriguez, but they were more manageable in a relief role.
Like former Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks, Rodriguez's biggest weapon is his 100+ mph fastball, and moving him into a starter role may deplete some of his powerful velocity. It's extremely uncertain how Rodriguez will fare as a starter in Major League Baseball. He faced two of the weaker teams in the World Baseball Classic in an extremely small sample size. Moreover, he sought MLB opportunities immediately following the tournament to no avail and did not pitch professionally at all in 2023.
As a high-leverage reliever, there's much more certainty with Rodriguez's performance, and there's no doubt in my mind that he would fit perfectly into the backend of the St. Louis bullpen. If the Cardinals could make a deal work as a relief pitcher, it would be a fantastic signing. But for now, Rodriguez remains unlikely as both a Cardinal and a reliever.