Cardinals among teams that scouted Japanese fireballer Roki Sasaki this weekend

The St. Louis Cardinals were among 8 Major League teams to scout Japanese ace Roki Sasaki this offseason in hopes of signing him in 2025.
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan / Gene Wang/GettyImages

In an offseason frenzy for Japanese talent, Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and even Shota Imanaga signed unprecedented contracts with their new Major League clubs. After the 2023 World Baseball Classic run, talent from Japan has been extremely sought after and has gotten expensive. The St. Louis Cardinals, once considered favorites to land Yoshinobu Yamamoto before his market exploded, found themselves with nothing despite showing significant interest in talent from Asia.

However, an electric talent may be making the jump from NPB to MLB next offseason, and he'll be coming at a highly affordable price. As has been rumored for a while, 22-year-old fireballer Roki Sasaki will likely be posted by the Chiba Lotte Marines at the end of 2024. However, unlike Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Roki Sasaki won't get a contract that is as lucrative. Per the posting rules between NPB and MLB, Sasaki will be treated as a restricted International free agent like Shohei Ohtani was in 2018 when he signed with the Angels.

The Cardinals, in desperate need of affordable pitching help, needed to start early in their recruitment of Roki Sasaki, and it looks like they have done just that. According to a report from Yahoo Japan, eight Major League teams scouted Roki Sasaki in his first start of the NPB season, including the Cardinals. The Dodgers, Mets, and Yankees were also mentioned leaving four mystery teams. It'll be hard to pry Sasaki away from Los Angeles, as playing alongside his Samurai Japan teammates Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani would certainly be preferable, but the Cardinals will need to do their best.

After returning from an oblique injury late last season, Sasaki hasn't fully ramped up yet, but the young ace still has plenty of time to recover and improve. He topped out at 99 mph in his start Sunday night, but he'll likely ramp up to triple digits very soon. In a 3-2 loss to Nippon-Ham, Sasaki allowed one earned run in 5 innings, giving up 6 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 7 batters. It wasn't his best showing, but it certainly showed his immense potential.

If the Cardinals landed Sasaki, it would be a huge help to a rotation lacking affordable options. Sasaki still isn't a finished product like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but he's as can't-miss as it gets for starting pitchers. Adding him would add tremendous payroll flexibility to the Cardinals to add more high-end pitching and could give them a top rotation in all of baseball. Should Sasaki indeed make the jump this offseason, the Cardinals and Lars Nootbaar will need to do all they can to recruit him to St. Louis.