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May 26, 2024

Japanese Ace Shota Imanaga Agrees to Deal with Cubs

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Jan 10, 2024

The Chicago Cubs have made a splash in free agency, reportedly agreeing to a contract with star Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga. The Cubs beat out teams like the Red Sox, Giants, and Mets to sign the coveted pitcher.

Imanaga’s Background and Scouting Report

Imanaga, 29, has played the last 5 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), Japan’s top league. He has established himself as one of the most dominant starters in Japan with his mid-90s fastball and wipeout splitter.

Over his NPB career, Imanaga has gone 68-32 with a 2.05 ERA and 963 strikeouts in 812 innings pitched. He was the Pacific League MVP and Eiji Sawamura Award winner (top pitcher) in 2021.

Here is a brief scouting report on Imanaga:

Pitch Velocity Notes
Four-Seam Fastball 92-96 mph Above-average velocity with riding life up in the zone
Splitter 87-90 mph True split-change, devastates hitters when located down
Slider 83-86 mph Sharp, late break though inconsistent at times
Curveball 78-81 mph Slow 11-5 bender, used to upset timing

Imanaga commands his pitches well and has shown excellent control throughout his career, walking just 2.1 batters per 9 innings pitched. His fastball-splitter combo gives him a true out pitch which he leverages to produce strikeouts and weak contact.

Winding Path to MLB Deal

Imanaga was posted by the Yomiuri Giants on December 5th, allowing MLB teams a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with the Japanese star.

Numerous teams expressed interest, including the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, and Mets. It was reported that 6 teams made formal offers to Imanaga. As the deadline approached, it came down to the Cubs and Giants engaged in a bidding war for his services.

Most expected Imanaga to choose a west coast team closer to his native Japan. But the Cubs reportedly “blew away” the competition with their contract offer, swaying Imanaga to Chicago.

Contract Details

Imanaga ultimately agreed to a 6-year, $108 million contract with the Cubs. The deal includes an opt-out clause after the 3rd year.

The average annual value of $18 million represents the largest contract ever given to a Japanese-born pitcher in MLB history.

Cubs President Jed Hoyer said the franchise views Imanaga as a “cornerstone piece” and “impact starter” that will stabilize their rotation for years. It’s a huge splash for a Cubs team that has been relatively quiet in free agency the past couple offseasons.

What Imanaga Brings to Cubs

The addition of Imanaga gives the Cubs the lefty ace they sorely lacked last season. Marcus Stroman is the only other left-handed starter projected in their rotation.

Imanaga now slots in as the Cubs #2 starter behind Kyle Hendricks. He brings much needed depth to round out a rotation that was decimated by injuries in 2023.

With his deep arsenal of pitches, Imanaga should quickly adjust to facing MLB hitters. Playing at Wrigley Field also caters well to his flyball tendencies.

Here is the potential Cubs rotation with the Imanaga signing:

  1. Kyle Hendricks
  2. Shota Imanaga
  3. Marcus Stroman
  4. Jameson Taillon
  5. Drew Smyly

The Cubs likely aren’t done building their rotation either. They have been linked to interest in re-signing veteran Wade Miley while also monitoring the starting pitching market.

Reaction Around MLB

Missing out on Imanaga sparked quite a reaction from his other most aggressive suitors.

The San Francisco Giants were reportedly “shocked and disappointed” to lose out on the prized target they hoped to sign. Boston Red Sox execs were also left scratching their heads after their substantial offer still came up short.

Other teams like the Yankees and Mets bowed out of the Imanaga sweepstakes earlier, sensing his price tag would extend well beyond their comfort zone.

Nevertheless, the loser in this situation is clear — the rest of the National League Central. Imanaga instantly upgrades Chicago’s rotation and makes them a dangerous foe for divisional opponents.

What’s Next for Imanaga and Cubs?

Imanaga is expected to be introduced next week at the annual Cubs Convention before heading to Spring Training in Mesa, AZ.

Barring any visa issues, he should slot into the middle of Chicago’s rotation from day one. The Cubs likely plan to monitor his innings and adjustment period early on.

It’s a franchise-altering move that plants another long-term anchor on the pitching staff. Combined with young bats like Brennen Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and Ed Howard — the Cubs future is looking very bright.

The Shota Imanaga era on the North Side begins now as the Cubs push to contend in 2024 and beyond.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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