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Cubs reportedly nearing agreement with Shōta Imanaga

Ryan Herrera Avatar
January 9, 2024

Did you really think the Cubs would do nothing all offseason?

Perhaps some fans felt that way for a while, but they can now breathe a little sigh of relief as the Cubs are nearing an agreement on a deal with Japanese free-agent starting pitcher Shōta Imanaga, according to multiple reports.

As noted later by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Imanaga still needs to pass a physical, which is set to take place Wednesday. The deal will have to be finalized by Thursday, which marks the end of his 45-day posting window.

Not much is known about the details of the contract, but MLB Network’s Jon Morosi has reported that, once finalized, it will be a multi-year deal with an average annual value around $15 million.

The 30-year-old left-hander, who MLB Trade Rumors ranked as the No. 10 free agent overall early in the offseason, is making the transition to Major League Baseball after eight seasons with the Yokohama BayStars of Nippon Professional Baseball. In those eight years, Imanaga went 64-50 with a 3.18 ERA, a 1.118 WHIP, a 9.2 strikeouts-per-nine ratio and a 3.65 strikeouts-per-walk ratio.

However, Imanaga is coming off the best two seasons of his career in 2022 and ’23 — in the former, he went 11-4 with a 2.26 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 4.55 K/BB; in the latter, he went 7-4 with a 2.80 ERA, a 1.054 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 and 7.25 K/BB.

It’s not always easy to project how players from NPB will do once they make the move to MLB. Seiya Suzuki, the Cubs’ right fielder who signed before the 2022 season, has had his struggles in the transition on the field — while also dealing with plenty of off-the-field adjustments — after a standout career in Japan.

But team officials, including Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer, strongly believe they’ve made advancements in that area, making them comfortable bringing in players they feel can be impactful despite not coming up in major league systems.

And at the very least, viewers got a glimpse of what Imanaga can potentially do against major league hitters during the World Baseball Classic last spring, where he started Japan’s win in the final over the U.S.

If the deal does indeed go through, Imanaga will join a Cubs rotation that features Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon and Kyle Hendricks. Jordan Wicks, Javier Assad, Drew Smyly and Hayden Wesneski will be in the mix for a rotation spot as well, and some starting pitching prospects should also be knocking on the door in the near future.

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