Cubs, Shota Imanaga Agree To Deal

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The Cubs are in settlement with NPB left-hander Shota Imanaga on a deal, as first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Right this moment (X link). The contract is pending a bodily, which is scheduled for Wednesday. Imanaga’s deal should be finalized earlier than his 45-day posting window closes at 5:00 pm EST on Thursday.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com (on X) reported the deal can pay round $15MM yearly over a number of seasons. That surprisingly takes the type of a two-year assure within the $30MM vary, studies Jim Bowden of the Athletic (X link). Bowden and Jon Heyman of the New York Put up (X link) every recommend the contract incorporates numerous crew/participant choices and escalators and will max out round $80MM.

It’s the primary MLB free agent pickup of the offseason for the Cubs. It’s a giant acquisition, because the southpaw is without doubt one of the extra intriguing pitchers on this yr’s class. That makes the initially reported monetary phrases surprising. At the start of the offseason, MLBTR predicted a five-year, $85MM contract. Reporting in current weeks had prompt he might prime $100MM. It’s troublesome to completely choose the deal till the precise choice construction is reported, however an approximate $80MM most worth conditional on an innings or appearances threshold can be beneath common expectations.

Imanaga has spent the previous eight seasons with the Yokohama BayStars in his residence nation. He owns a profession 3.18 ERA in a league usually thought to be the second-best degree on the planet. Imanaga has turned in a 3.08 or higher in every of the previous three seasons, together with a sub-3.00 determine for the final two years.

Through the 2023 marketing campaign, he allowed 2.80 earned runs per 9 via 148 innings. He led all NPB hurlers with 174 strikeouts, narrowly topping Dodgers’ $325MM signee Yoshinobu Yamamoto in that regard. That’s a formidable 29.2% clip that’s nicely above the 22.1% MLB common. He paired that with a tidy 4% stroll fee, rating him amongst NPB’s finest pitchers at dominating the strike zone.

Regardless of the sturdy strikeout and stroll profile, Imanaga doesn’t include the form of pleasure generated by Yamamoto. That’s partially because of age. Having turned 30 final September, Imanaga is a typical age for a first-time free agent starter. Extra importantly, his repertoire factors extra towards a projection as a stable mid-rotation arm than a possible ace.

Evaluators with whom MLBTR spoke earlier than the offseason prompt Imanaga profiles as a #3/4 pitcher in a giant league rotation. Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser pegged him as a #4/5 kind in a scouting report from early December. The 5’10” hurler sometimes sits within the low-90s together with his fastball, touching the 94-95 MPH vary in shorter stints.

Evaluators have credited him with above-average life on the pitch, permitting it to play for whiffs on the prime of the strike zone regardless of the pedestrian velocity. Glaser writes that Imanaga backs that up with an above-average cut up however suggests his MLB upside could also be capped by middling breaking stuff.

The principle concern in Imanaga’s statistical profile has been the longball. He surrendered 17 homers final season, the second-most of any NPB pitcher. Whereas a few of that’s attributable to workload — he was fifteenth in innings pitched — it hints at a fly-ball profile that would give some evaluators pause. The Yankees reportedly stayed on the periphery of the bidding partially due to considerations that Imanaga wouldn’t profile nicely in a really hitter-friendly residence park. Statcast’s Park Components fee Wrigley Area as slightly favorable to residence runs, however it’s not among the many prime handful of hitting venues in MLB.

Imanaga’s stellar strikeout/stroll profile and persistently sturdy outcomes generated a good quantity of reported curiosity. The Crimson Sox, Giants and Angels have been all reported to be within the bidding of late. He’ll bypass these groups to step right into a Chicago rotation that appears prone to lose Marcus Stroman to free company.

Imanaga joins Justin SteeleKyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon as locks for the Opening Day rotation. The likes of Jordan WicksJavier AssadHayden Wesneski and prospect Ben Brown might battle for the #5 job. There’s nonetheless loads of time for president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and his entrance workplace so as to add one other starter in the event that they wish to solidify the ultimate spot and push all their youthful, unproven arms into depth roles.

Along with what they’re guaranteeing Imanaga, the Cubs will owe a posting price to the BayStars. That’s proportional to the contract worth: 20% of the deal’s first $25MM ($5MM), 17.5% of the following $25MM ($4.375MM) and 15% of additional spending. That applies to the bottom assure in addition to any cash that Imanaga unlocks through incentives, escalators or contract choices.

Roster Resource initiatives the crew’s 2024 payroll within the $178MM vary, not together with Imanaga’s deal. They’re at roughly $186MM for aggressive stability tax functions. That’s nowhere close to subsequent yr’s $237MM tax threshold, however signing Imanaga will push the crew’s precise payroll past final yr’s approximate $184MM Opening Day mark.

Picture courtesy of USA Right this moment Sports activities.





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