While I was in college, I wanted a broader range of education. In addition to my primary degree (education), I took business classes that led me to a minor in business administration. Don't be mistaken, I'm not in a business field currently; I'm just someone who wanted a broader range of knowledge as a 20-something in college.
But I do recall one business principle in particular from my macroeconomics class: the First Mover Advantage. This principle states that there are certain advantages to being the first company in a particular service or product industry and that there are certain benefits to working with a new company. Lower costs, better relationships, longer-term relationships, and the freedom to set the market price are given to those who are the initial movers.
The Cardinals would be wise to follow this first-mover theory this offseason in free agency, something they reportedly want to do. At the trade deadline, John Mozeliak waited until the last minute for some of his trades. While the market as a whole was slow to progress, the longer he waited the less he got in exchange for players on expiring contracts such as Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks.
If the Cardinals were to take a speedy approach this offseason, they could see plenty of benefits. First and foremost, they'll have the opportunity to pick from every available player this offseason if they act quickly in free agency. Players such as Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Sonny Gray, and even Shohei Ohtani are all free agents at this exact moment. There is not a single player right now who isn't available through free agency but once was this offseason. There have been no signings yet; there have been no trades. Mozeliak can pick from hundreds of free agents at this moment to fill out his roster.
Additionally, John Mozeliak will be able to set the market price for free agents should he act quickly. Ohtani and Yamamoto are likely to garner the largest contracts this offseason; if those two players are the first to sign (and they likely will be while agents and players let them set the price), then Mozeliak will be paying inflated prices as he tries to outbid teams such as the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, and Red Sox for Nola, Snell, Gray, and Montgomery. If Mozeliak acts first on this "second tier" of pitchers, he doesn't have to worry about inflated prices; rather, he can set the market price. The front office can even set the trade market value of certain players should they act quickly.
A final benefit to being the first to act this offseason would be fan approval. St. Louis fans, for all of their faults, are very passionate. They know what the team needs and they are constantly keeping tabs on the team. Many fans have been clamoring for team upgrades since April of 2023. If Mozeliak signs or trades for a pitcher, especially a headliner, quickly, fans will ease their volatility slightly. Season ticket sales will increase earlier than the team possibly expected, and all will be happy.
There are some concerns with acting first in any market, however. You could be making the wrong investment. For every Netflix there is a TiVo, for every Google, there is a Yahoo, and for every iPhone, there is a Palm Pilot. Companies that are the first to act have greater risk; the market could change on them, or they could have invested in the wrong product or service to start. Something could pop up in a player's physical that wasn't there before. If the Cardinals act too quickly, they may not notice that concern. Also, the market price on free agents could change drastically even if St. Louis sets the price for high-end pitchers.
It may be wise this offseason for John Mozeliak to take a more purposeful and accelerated approach to free agency and the trade market. By being the first to act, he gets to set the price, and he gets exclusive access to players who may not be available later in the offseason. My business acumen pales in comparison to John Mozeliak's, but the benefits provided by being the first to act could outweigh the potential concerns this offseason. With swift action, Mozeliak can build his perfect starting rotation and have time to spare.
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