Cubs, Red Sox Leading Shota Imanaga Field?

Steve Adams

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Jan. 9: Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports this morning that both the Giants and Angels now “appear to be looking elsewhere” (Twitter links). Heyman suggests that both the Red Sox and Cubs are “very much” still alive in the Imanaga bidding. That runs counter to reports from the weekend and from yesterday, though bidding on any free agent is, of course, quite fluid. Imanaga has a bit more than 48 hours remaining to come to terms with a team.

Jan. 8, 3:55pm: Chris Cotillo of MassLive reports that the Sox are considered a “long shot” to get Imanaga as things currently stand.

3:45pm: Star NPB left-hander Shota Imanaga will see his 45-day posting window come to a close on Thursday, meaning it’s only a matter of days before the 30-year-old will decide on his first big league team. Bidding for Imanaga has reportedly been strong, as he’s drawn interest from a wide range of teams thus far in his first foray into MLB’s open market. As the bidding period winds down, Imanaga’s market has unsurprisingly begun to take firmer shape.

Sankei Sports in Japan reports that the Angels and Giants are currently the leading candidates to sign Imanaga, although no decision has been made just yet. Similarly, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand suggests that the Giants are emerging as the favorites to sign the southpaw, though Feinsand adds that each of the Angels, Cubs and Red Sox remain in the fold to some extent. While there’s still a number of ways which the left-hander’s final decision could go, it’s at least notable that Feinsand characterizes a final four of sorts, while the reports out of Japan have the field narrowed further yet.

The Giants and Angels are both strong fits for Imanaga, who’s expected to top countryman Kodai Senga’s five-year, $75MM contract with the Mets. San Francisco acquired former AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray on Friday in a surprising trade with the Mariners, but Ray isn’t expected to pitch until midseason as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Similarly, right-hander Alex Cobb will open the year on the injured list while recovering from October hip surgery.

That leaves the Giants with ace Logan Webb as the most (arguably only) solidified member of the rotation. Veteran Ross Stripling, top prospect Kyle Harrison and 2023 rookies Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck are among the candidates to round out the staff, but there’s a good deal of uncertainty beyond that group. It’s true that Imanaga himself comes with his own uncertainty — he’s untested against big league hitters — but MLB scouts are intrigued enough by him that some believe his contract could approach nine figures. Clearly, there’s a prevailing belief throughout MLB that Imanaga is a legitimate mid-rotation arm, at the least.

A few hundred miles to the south, the Angels are facing some rotation questions of their own. Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval are all locked into spots, although Detmers and Sandoval both had down 2023 showings relative to their 2022 performance. That’s even more true of veteran Tyler Anderson, who had an All-Star ’22 showing with the Dodgers before posting a 5.43 ERA in year one of a three-year, $39MM free agent deal with the Halos. The Angels recently took a low-cost flier on Zach Plesac and have reportedly been prioritizing Blake Snell in the wake of Shohei Ohtani’s departure, but Imanaga presents a mid-rotation option for them as well.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, will roll out a new-look rotation with or without Imanaga. Gone is oft-injured ace Chris Sale, who was shipped to the Braves (with cash) in exchange for second baseman Vaughn Grissom. He was quickly replaced by newly signed Lucas Giolito, who’s currently in line to be joined by some combination of Brayan Bello, Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock and Kutter Crawford.

As for the Cubs, they’ve been MLB’s least-active team this winter — at least when it comes to actually pushing deals across the finish line. Chicago has been connected to a litany of free agents and a handful of trade targets, but thus far the Cubs haven’t added a single player to their roster aside from catcher Brian Serven, whom they claimed off waivers from the Rockies last week. Chicago’s rotation currently includes Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon, with veteran Drew Smyly and young arms like Hayden Wesneski, Jordan Wicks, Ben Brown and Javier Assad all in the mix for starts as well. It’s a relatively solid group, but the Cubs figure to make some kind of move to replace the outgoing Marcus Stroman.

Dating back to 2019, Imanaga boasts a 26.2% strikeout rate and 5.9% walk rate in addition to a cumulative 2.79 earned run average — including a no-hitter in the 2022 season. He’s not overpowering in terms of velocity, though MLBTR contributor Dai Takegami Podziewski noted back in September that he’d added some life to his heater and was averaging between 92-93 mph during the 2023 campaign. In addition to the guaranteed money owed to the pitcher himself, Imanaga’s new team will need to pay a release fee to his former team, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, which would be equal to 20% of the contract’s first $25MM, plus 17.5% of the next $25MM and 15% of any dollars thereafter.



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Steve Adams www.mlbtraderumors.com Boston Red Sox,Chicago Cubs,Los Angeles Angels,Newsstand,San Francisco Giants,Shota Imanaga

SOURCE
2024-01-09 16:40:47 , MLB Trade Rumors

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