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A few more thoughts about Shōta Imanaga, new Cubs lefthander

The Japanese star should be a solid addition to the Cubs rotation.

Photo by Mary DeCicco/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

We waited quite a long time this offseason for the Cubs to make a major free-agent signing. As of today, we stand just 44 days from the team’s first Spring Training game and just 78 days until the Cubs open the 2024 season in Arlington, Texas against the World Series champion Rangers.

The signing of Japanese lefthander Shōta Imanaga addresses, as Josh pointed out in BCB After Dark, the departure of Marcus Stroman via free agency. The numbers Josh posted would seem to indicate Imanaga would, on the surface, be about equal in ability to Stroman. However, he’s also about two and a half years younger and in my view, does one thing much better than Stroman: He doesn’t walk hitters. In 2023, Stroman walked 3.4 per nine innings, or put another way, about nine percent of all the hitters he faced (52 of 575). In 2023 in NBP, Imanaga walked just 1.5 per nine innings, or about four percent (24 of 596). That’s a significant difference.

Here’s something else that’s good about Imanaga:

So he’ll likely provide a look that MLB hitters are not used to seeing. That’s absolutely a good thing. Here’s Imanaga’s complete NPB record.

I would, as things currently stand, slot Imanaga into the third spot in the rotation, behind Justin Steele and Jameson Taillon. Following Imanaga would be Kyle Hendricks and Jordan Wicks. That’s... a pretty good rotation, especially since that would put Javier Assad into a long relief/swingman kind of role, in which he excelled during 2023. Drew Smyly could also inhabit a similar type of role in 2024. These pitchers will be important especially considering that Imanaga has averaged about 24 starts and 150 innings in NPB. A long reliever or two would be quite useful, it seems to me.

Here’s what we know about Imanaga’s contract as of now:

Thus it would appear the AAV is about $15 million, and perhaps could be as long as a five- or six-year deal. Hopefully we’ll find out more over the next few days. The deal is pending a physical, and the Cubs might announce it in a news conference as soon as Friday. If so, that would also give them the opportunity to introduce Imanaga at the Cubs Convention — and no, that doesn’t mean they actually signed him weeks ago and were holding this back for CubsCon. The baseball side of the Cubs doesn’t do things that way. Nevertheless, making such an introduction would certainly be popular.

Here’s more on Imanaga and the Cubs from Jon Morosi of MLB Network:

Can you stand one more Imanaga poll? Here’s one!

Poll

How much WAR (Baseball-reference version) will Shōta Imanaga post for the Cubs in 2024?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    1 or fewer
    (38 votes)
  • 77%
    2-3
    (705 votes)
  • 15%
    4-5
    (139 votes)
  • 2%
    6 or more
    (22 votes)
904 votes total Vote Now