4. Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Outside of Shohei Ohtani, Japanese sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto may be the best free agent available this offseason, and the Cardinals are uniquely positioned to get him.
In 2023, Yamamoto is 17-6 with a 1.16 ERA while striking out 176 batters in 171 innings. It's no wonder why teams are so excited about him, as he could instantly be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball if things translate like teams hope it will.
Remember how I talked about the Cardinals' investment in the Japanese market and building relationships over there? Well, last year they hired a new scout for that area, someone who knows the Japanese market well, has built relationships with various players and clubs, and one of the strongest relationships he has is with Yamamoto's team, the Orix Buffaloes. He also has a track record of getting deals done with these Japanese players, which will be a huge help for St. Louis in this pursuit.
The Cardinals are one of many teams who have been scouting Yamamoto, and they will have to outbid teams like the Mets, Yankees, and Dodgers. That may be a tall task, but at the end of the day, it's something they must be willing to do if they are serious about transforming this rotation.
The reason I put him at number four is that I think there is another "top tier" starter, they would be more likely to sign, which would rule them out of the Yamamoto market in all likelihood. But with no draft pick attached to Yamamoto, that could make him the more likely signing as things go along, or they could be willing to sign one of the top guys with a qualifying offer attached (Nola or Snell) and Yamamoto as their other target.