No, the St. Louis Cardinals were not going to be in the running for Shohei Ohtani before his injury. Now that his future as a starting pitcher is in flux, their chances of signing him went from 0.0001% to 0%, per my personal analytics department.
In all seriousness, I wrote about yesterday how devasting Ohtani's injury is for the game of baseball, as well as how it serves as a reminder to the Cardinals of how risky large contracts to pitchers can be. In an instant, their season can be over, and their careers can be forever altered.
It is way too early to tell how this injury will impact Ohtani's free-agent market. I don't think it's a bold prediction to say he'll make less money now, but the real question, in my opinion, is whether or not this scares away potential suitors, or brings more to the table.
Ohtani has arguably been the best hitter in all of baseball this year, and that's with splitting his time and attention as a pitcher as well. Even if Ohtani does not start a game on the mound for a few years, his bat is still worth a record contract, especially with his marketability in Japan.
Here's the issue though, the teams that will be trying to sign Ohtani know that he is basically just a DH in 2024, and his future on the mound in 2025 and beyond is up in the air. The Cardinals had a significant advantage going into the free agent market this year as they could make strong offers to other top-end starters while teams wait on Ohtani's decision. Now, there'll likely be teams who pass on the Ohtani sweepstakes, or are not as patient with him, as they have a pitching need and know he can't fill it.
I still imagine teams like the Dodgers, Mariners, Giants, Angels, and perhaps other teams will be all in on Ohtani this offseason. There just may be a different level of competition amongst the top pitchers in the market now that Ohtani is off the board as a starter in the near future.
I still see the Cardinals as one of the favorites to get a top-end starter this offseason. Bob Nightengale of USA Today put Aaron Nola, Julio Urias, and Blake Snell at the top of the Cardinals wishlist, while Katie Woo of The Athletic has Nola, Snell, and Sonny Gray as her likeliest targets. I'll side with Woo on this one, as those three names feel like very real fits for the Cardinals this offseason.
Keep a close eye on how insiders see the free agent market shaping up now with the Ohtani injury. It could end up having a minimal impact on the Cardinals, but based on the current tea leaves, it feels like this injury will have a larger impact on St. Louis than most would expect.