Should the Cardinals sign an International player this offseason?
With numerous different players either defecting from Cuba or being posted from Japan this off season, many new free agents are headed to Major League baseball. Some you may have heard of or watched in the World Baseball Classic, but some may be completely new to you. But my question is with all of the buzz surrounding these players no where are the Cardinals ever mentioned on the interested teams, maybe it is because they are worried about Albert Pujols, or maybe they just have no interest at all. But if you think about it the Cardinals have only had one Japanese player in the history of their long and storied franchise and that player was So Taguchi. So should the Cardinals decide to try to take a dab at one of the many big named international players or is the risk to high? I’ll highlight some of the big named international stars that could be headed to the MLB next season:
Darvish is said to be the best pitcher not pitching in the Major Leagues, and he is expected to be posted from the Nippon Ham Fighters his team in Japan. Darvish will be the most sought after of the international players and he will bring in the biggest paycheck as well. He has superb talent and is said to have been better than Daiskue Matsuzaka was before signing with the Red Sox. Last season was probably his best, Darvish went 17-7 with a 1.49 ERA and 263 strikeouts, so his value is very high. Darvish is young just 25 years old so he has many great years ahead and could be a huge asset to any team, but there is absolutely no way that Darvish will sign with the Cardinals, with the Red Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Yankees in the mix and the Cardinals worrying about Pujols there is no need to spend so much money on him.
Cespedes recently gained free agency after being defected from Cuba. The 26 year old outfielder showed off his skills in the World Baseball Classic as a member of the Cuban team, in 24 at bats he had 11 hits for a .480 average with two home runs and 5 RBI’s. Cespedes is known to be a five tool player: power, contact, speed, glove, and arm. He’s got it all and should be able to contribute in the majors, but his price tag is heavy and is expected to top fellow Cuban Aroldis Chapman‘s 30 plus million deal that he signed with the Reds back in 2010. I would not expect to see Cespedes join the Cardinals but the Marlins, Yankees, Red Sox,Rockies, Indians, and Nationals could make a bid for him.
Aoki has been said to be the best Japanese hitter since Ichiro. He has three batting titles in Japan and even though he had a down year in 2011 hitting just .293 he still can hit. Aoki is more of a contact hitter but does have some power, his career high in Japan is 20 home runs. His age is a question mark to me, he is 29 years old so signing him to play would have to guarantee that he starts out in the major leagues. The major con with signing a Japanese player is that you have to bid for negotiating rights, so not only do you have to sign the player but you have to pay to sign him, so extra money will not be on the Cardinals radar but look for the same teams that I mentioned for Cespedes to be interested in Aoki.
Hisashi Iwakuma (RHP):
Iwakuma was bid on by the Athletics last season but no deal was ever made. He is a third or fourth starter at best and would probably benefit a team more as a bullpen option, similar to Koji Uehara. He may cost to much money however to just be a reliever so I don’t expect the Cardinals to have any interest if I had to guess I would think either the Seattle Mariners or Oakland Athletics would have the best chance at signing him.
One of Korea’s top pitchers is hoping to get posted in time for the 2012 off season. He has hired agent Scott Boras so whatever kind of contract he will get, will be a big one. For the Kia Tigers in Korea this season had a 2.45 ERA with a 9.3 K/9 in 172 1/3 innings. Yoon is just 24 years old but he is not in the same skill level as Darvish and will probably be overlooked by most teams but could still get a contract from somewhere.
Well even with the great amount of International free agents that are available in the off season I doubt that the Cardinals make an attempt to sign any of them. I guess the Cardinals will have to wait a while, this off season is not a good one to be spending money and taking risks on international players that might not have success in the MLB, the Cardinals will focus on Pujols and some other minor needs. If I had to choose the player I would want out of this list the obvious choice is Darvish but I wouldn’t mind seeing Cespedes on the team, but it simply won’t happen. Atleast not this year, maybe someday we can say that the Cardinals made a big splash on an International player.