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Revisiting the Cubs’ possible interest in Shota Imanaga

The Japanese lefty could be a good fit on the North Side.

Shota Imanaga pitches against the USA in the 2023 WBC
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The dust is still settling from the Shohei Ohtani signing by the Dodgers over the weekend, but there are quite a few top free agents still available.

Japanese righthander Yoshinobu Yamamoto is generally recognized as the best pitcher from NPB, and there are a number of teams reported to be after his services. The Cubs haven’t been mentioned, and so I’m going to turn my attention to the “other” NPB pitcher who’s ranked among the better free agents this offseason, Shota Imanaga (in MLB Trade Rumors’ free agent rankings, Yamamoto is No. 3, and Imanaga is No. 10).

Jon Morosi — yes, we should all give him another chance after his Ohtani debacle last week — posted this about Imanaga Tuesday:

I wrote about Imanaga here last month and concluded that MLBTR’s projection of a five-year, $85 million deal was probably not too far off. That’s a $17 million AAV; Morosi goes a bit higher at $20 million per year. Either one should be affordable for the Cubs.

Let’s be clear. While Yamamoto has been the best pitcher in NPB for several years, winning the league’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award three years in a row, Imanaga isn’t too far behind. In 2023 he posted a 2.80 ERA and 1.054 WHIP in 22 starts for the Yokohama Bay Stars. He struck out 174 in 148 innings and walked just 24. The latter has been a hallmark of Imanaga’s career — he just doesn’t walk people, 2.5 per nine innings over his eight-year NPB career.

Imanaga turned 30 in September, so a five-year deal would take him through his age 30-34 seasons.

Five years, $100 million (plus the posting fee, which doesn’t count against the luxury tax). Who says no?

Here are 12 minutes of Imanaga highlights from 2023:

Poll

Shota Imanaga...

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    ... the Cubs should sign him to a five-year, $100 million deal
    (399 votes)
  • 20%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but for a different deal in years or dollars or both
    (111 votes)
  • 5%
    ... the Cubs should not sign him
    (32 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (3 votes)
545 votes total Vote Now