Cardinals sign sought-after pitcher from Japanese league who isn't Shohei Ohtani

Miles Mikolas signed with the Cardinals after three years in Japan. (AP Photo)

The St. Louis Cardinals may have lost out on Shohei Ohtani, but at least they signed one sought-after pitcher from Nippon Professional Baseball. The team agreed to a two-year, $15.5 million deal with former major-leaguer Miles Mikolas, according to our own Jeff Passan.

The 29-year-old Mikolas spent the past three seasons with the Yomiuri Giants. In 62 starts, he posted a 2.18 ERA over 424 2/3 innings. He struck out 378 and walked just 69.

If you’re wondering how Mikolas will adjust to the lifestyle of his new league, that shouldn’t be a problem. This will be Mikolas’ second go in Major League Baseball. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2009 and spent three years in the big leagues before going over to Japan. With both the Padres and Texas Rangers, Mikolas posted a 5.32 ERA over 37 games. He was mostly used as a reliever during that time.

Mikolas is expected to be used primarily as a starter this time, and the Cardinals are hoping he can keep some of the gains he made in Japan. Mikolas’ reduced walk rate was a major key to his success over in NPB. He also managed to increase his strikeout rate, though it’s unclear how much that will hold now that he’s coming back to the United States.

Mikolas gives St. Louis yet another starter rich with potential, but lacking experience. Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright are the only known commodities currently in the team’s rotation.

After them, the team has a bevy of prospects who should contribute, but may not be ready for extreme workloads just yet. Prospect Luke Weaver performed admirably in limited work last season, and will likely have a leg up on a starting spot in spring training. The team also has last year’s uber-prospect Alex Reyes returning from Tommy John surgery.

Behind them, the club has both Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara, who could work their way into the rotation at some point.

That’s eight names for five spots, but it’s less crowded than it seems. Flaherty and Alcantara are unlikely to start the year in the majors, and Reyes won’t approach 200 innings after his surgery. Weaver could see the most time of the bunch, but he only threw 138 innings over two levels in 2017. The team will want to be careful with him too.

Mikolas’ workload wasn’t prolific over in Japan, but he should help pick up some crucial innings for the team so its prospects aren’t overworked. Mikolas threw 188 innings last year.

The team isn’t asking for much here. In a worst case scenario, Mikolas gives the Cardinals innings until the prospects prove themselves ready for the majors.

If he’s anything more than that, the Cardinals just picked up a huge bargain. Fifteen million over two seasons for a starting pitcher is next to nothing in today’s game.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!