LOS ANGELES – The St. Louis Cardinals started the offseason as one of the more aggressive teams in the free agent market. But in recent weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers have emerged as the big spenders and winners of arguably the two best-available talents this winter.
Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto join a star-studded Dodgers squad on record deals. Los Angeles will host the Cardinals on Opening Day next year. There’s a good chance both will make their new-team debuts against St. Louis.
Ohtani, a rare modern baseball hitting-pitching phenom and two-time MVP, officially signed a 10-year, $700 million deal with the Dodgers last week. It’s the first contract to exceed half a billion dollars in MLB history and at least double the dollars of every other player not named Mike Trout, Aaron Judge or Mookie Betts.
Ohtani stays in Los Angeles after six seasons with the American League’s Angels, coming off arguably his best MLB campaign yet. During his age-28 season, shortened a few weeks by a season-ending injury, he finished with 44 home runs, 95 RBI and a .304 batting average offensively, along with a 10-5 record, a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts pitching-wise.
Ohtani is not expected to pitch this season after a late-season pitching scare last summer, but he could insert the Dodgers rotation as soon as 2025.
When he’s ready to pitch, he’ll join a rotation with one of his World Baseball Classic teammates, Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The 25-year-old ace out of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League is finalizing a 12-year, $325 million deal with the Dodgers, a deal first reported on Thursday night.
Once completed, it would be the largest MLB contract ever offered to a pitcher in terms of years and dollars. That’s quite intriguing for an arm that has yet to pitch at the MLB level.
Yamamoto is a three-time NPB Triple Crown winner and ended his last season in Japan with a 17-6 record, a 1.16 ERA and 176 strikeouts over 171 innings pitched for the Orix Buffaloes.
Baseball insiders knew Ohtani and Yamamoto were due for big pay days, but their deals are ones of rather uncharted territory.
Either one could have filled some big needs for the Cardinals, but given that St. Louis hasn’t historically awarded many nine-figure deals to free agents, and particularly with Ohtani’s deal closer to ten figures than eight, it’s not surprising that they didn’t ultimately end up in St. Louis.
The Dodgers also bolstered their pitching staff in a trade for 30-year-old Tyler Glasnow, adding a strikeout artist from the Rays and extending him on a 5-year, $135 million deal.
The Cardinals added three projected rotation pieces to their staff in November with Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. They also cleared a logjam by trading outfielder Tyler O’Neill and added a few smaller potential bullpen pieces.
It’s unclear how much more St. Louis expects to accomplish this offseason, but a few more bullpen additions shouldn’t be out of the question. But any hopes for two highly-coveted stars (Ohtani and Yamamoto) are ultimately gone.
The Cardinals kick off their 2024 season with a four-game road series against the Dodgers next season from March 28-31. For the complete 2024 schedule, click here.