Shōta Imanaga Rumors: Chicago Cubs Signing Japanese Free Agent Pitcher

Originally published by DodgerBlue.com

Shōta Imanaga has seen his market heat up in the recent days as he needs to sign a contract by Thursday to make the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) to Major League Baseball.

At one point, the Los Angeles Dodgers were interested in signing the left-hander, but fell out of discussions after already signing Tyler Glasnow and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. His market reportedly included multiple teams with the San Francisco Giants believed to be the frontrunners.

However, the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, along with a few mystery teams, remained in the mix to sign Imanaga. Early Tuesday, the Giants started to look elsewhere after falling out of the group of finalists.

As Imanaga narrowed down the options, it appears he has now decided on his team. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Imanaga is signing with the Cubs:

The Chicago Cubs have reached a tentative deal with Japanese pitcher Shota Imanaga. He will undergo a physical in Chicago on Thursday before the deal becomes official.

— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 9, 2024

The Cubs have been searching for starting pitching all offseason and were part of the discussions for both Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani.

Initial projections estimated Imanaga’s contract would hover around $75 million, but that has since increased with some feeling he could sign for $100 million. On top of the salary, the Cubs will owe a posting fee to the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Imanaga posted a 2.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 174 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched during his final season with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. He has been exceptional in his ability to limit walks, issuing just 1.5 free passes per nine innings pitched.

He relies on command and movement more than elite stuff, which limits his upside, but he should still provide quality innings to whichever team signs him.

Imanaga also pitched for Team Japan during the 2023 World Baseball Classic and started against the United States in the Gold Medal Game, helping Samurai Japan win the championship game.

What’s next after Shōta Imanaga signed with Cubs?

With Imanaga off the board, teams will now likely turn their attention to Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, who are the top remaining free agents on the market. The relief pitcher market should start to pick up as well, with Josh Hader, Robert Stephenson and Jordan Hicks among the top bullpen arms available.

Outside of free agency, a Dylan Cease trade appears to be in play, while the Marlins could also move some of their starting pitching in exchange for offensive help, and Corbin Burnes remains an option to be dealt as well.

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