The New York Yankees are gearing up to do something. Fans aren't sure exactly what yet -- though they're hoping for Juan Soto and Yoshinobu Yamamoto -- but they know there's space for impact additions. And a number of them.
Problem is, everybody wants the same thing. Various contenders will be involved in any hypothetical trade talks for Soto. Same goes for Yamamoto's free agent market. The opportunity to sign a 25-year-old potential superstar doesn't come around often, and even mid-market teams would be OK with spending the money for that many prime years.
And don't you forget about the sleeper big-market teams that can pop into these races at any moment. The St. Louis Cardinals are a team the Bombers need to be looking out for.
Remember a year and a half ago when they were right there in the Soto trade talks with the Padres, but ultimately decided against including Dylan Carlson in the deal, which led the Nationals to send him to San Diego?
But that's not what we have our eye on as it pertains to the Cards interrupting the Yanks. According to Cardinals insider Derrick Goold, the underwhelming signings of Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson are "building toward making more competitive offers to players from Japan."
Yankees Rumors: Cardinals insider hints at STL making big move for Japanese players
Better hope those Brian Cashman comments on Giancarlo Stanton don't look worse as more teams enter the Yamamoto race!
What's to worry about the Cardinals, though? For one, they have a very flexible payroll. Their only bad contract is Willson Contreras, which isn't even really that bad. They have just $144 million committed to the payroll for 2024. They're in a much weaker division than the Yankees. They employ (WBC Team Japan notable) Lars Nootbaar, who's apparently friends with Yamamoto (the two were golfing together recently).
And lastly, after a disastrous 2023 campaign, the Cardinals will likely be out for blood next year, pairing their high-end veteran talent with promising up-and-coming young talent.
Now that Goold has outright said this could be a way for the Cardinals to set the table, specifically, for Japanese players (Yamamoto, Shōta Imanaga, Yuki Matsui), it has to be somewhat of a worry for the Yankees. St. Louis may not have a fearsome rotation, but there are enough guys there to effectively support a Yamamoto mega deal. If the rumors are true that Yamamoto would be intrigued by the idea of playing alongside other Japanese players, St. Louis has a clear and obvious path toward making that a core reality of their team-building philosophy.
It was already a big enough task to worry about the Dodgers and Mets. The NL champion Diamondbacks and desperate Cardinals add two more obstacles for New York.