The St. Louis Cardinals have a puncher’s chance to sign Shohei Ohtani this offseason.
The Los Angeles Angels' two-way superstar, Shohei Ohtani, will be a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, and according to Sports Lens, the St. Louis Cardinals are the seventh most likely team to sign the MLB icon in the offseason.
Ohtani, a 28-year-old who signed with the Angels out of Japan in December 2017, has made it clear that he wants to win, and the Angels have struggled to do that since bringing him aboard. The Cardinals’ winning culture could be alluring to Ohtani, who has struck up a kinship with Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar at the World Baseball Classic.
Nootbaar, already a favorite among many Cardinals fans, would reach legendary status if his charm and charisma were to woo Ohtani to St. Louis. Nootbaar is likely to win a starting outfield job with the Cardinals in 2023, but the team could look very different after the season, especially if Ohtani is in the mix.
Although an Ohtani signing shouldn’t affect the outfield construction, as the large majority of his games are at designated hitter, the Cardinals do have a few options at DH currently. This includes Nolan Gorman and Juan Yepez, as well as the outfielder who doesn’t make the starting roster among Nootbaar, Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, and possibly Jordan Walker. An Ohtani acquisition would probably require some decluttering in that area.
Ohtani’s ability to pitch would be more important for the Cardinals. With Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Jordan Montgomery set to be free agents after 2023 and Adam Wainwright announcing his retirement, there are a lot of questions about the Cardinals’ rotation in 2024, and Ohtani would serve as a bona fide ace if he decides to continue pitching.
To snag Ohtani, though, the Cardinals would have to be willing to pony up some serious money. He will likely break the record for the largest contract in MLB history, so I can’t see the Cardinals re-signing any of those three free-agent pitchers if they were to splurge for Ohtani.
The Cardinals’ rotation after signing Ohtani, barring any other rotation moves before then, would likely be some combination of Ohtani, Steven Matz, Andre Pallante, Gordon Graceffo, Matthew Liberatore, and Dakota Hudson. It’s hard to see the Cardinals relying on one rock-solid starter and then a bunch of unknowns, but 2023 should provide a clearer picture of what they have.
Offensively, Ohtani would be a luxury rather than a necessity given the team’s stacked lineup and Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado signed through 2024 and 2027, respectively. On the pitching side, he would undoubtedly help the team immensely, but since the Cardinals don’t appear to need the offensive boost, they’re more likely to hunt for a traditional pitcher.
There is always the possibility, however slight, of Ohtani coming over to the Cardinals via trade. This would certainly require some of the Cardinals’ top prospects, including Walker and Masyn Winn, and unless the Cardinals enter the trade deadline in a spot where they believe they are legitimate World Series contenders, I can’t see the normally conservative Cardinals straying from their ideals.
It’s fun to envision Ohtani wearing a Cardinals uniform, and Nootbaar might be doing his part to recruit Ohtani to the Gateway City. Whether the Cardinals are willing to adjust their roster to accommodate such a splash is a different story.
It’s worth noting that Sports Lens has the Chicago Cubs as the second-highest odds for Ohtani, so maybe the Cardinals will swoop in to keep their division rivals at bay. Regardless of what happens, the Ohtani sweepstakes are worth keeping your eyes glued onto.