The main focus of the offseason for the Chicago Cubs so far has been all about Shohei Ohtani. There’s no question about the team’s intent to make a hard push for the two-way superstar, but we also shouldn’t forget about the other free agent targets on the Cubs’ radar.
There are a handful of Japanese pitchers who will be coming over to MLB and the Cubs are in on all of them. That includes 25-year-old Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shota Imanaga, as well as reliever Yuki Matsui. The Cubs are reportedly looking to add multiple starting pitchers heading into the 2024 season, so it’s no surprise that they have been casting a wide net in free agency. While Yamamoto would be the dream signing, there have been more links between the Cubs and Imanaga, which includes a previous visit to Chicago.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers dropped an article on the Cubs going all-in on their pursuit of Ohtani, but he also dropped a few other interesting nuggets. To be clear, Imanaga has not been posted by his Japanese team as of yet, so his time in Chicago does not seem to have been an official visit with the Cubs. However, the 30-year-old starting pitcher now does have some idea of life in the city.
The Cubs are also in on Japanese pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shota Imanaga — the latter has already spent time in Chicago — according to sources familiar with the situation.
Although Yamamoto is in his own tier this offseason, Imanaga is no slouch himself. The lefty has been dominating in Japan and has been doing it on a consistent basis. Since breaking into the league in 2016, Imanaga has recorded a 3.18 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, while averaging a strikeout per inning in what has now been 1,002.2 innings.
Imanaga’s last two seasons have been his best, posting a 2.26 ERA in 2022 and 2.80 ERA in 2023, with 306 strikeouts to only 53 walks in 291.2 innings.
While Yamamoto is projected to get a contract worth more than $200 million this offseason, Imanaga will probably be in the same range as fellow Japanese starter Kodai Senga, who signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the New York Mets last offseason. And if you recall, the Cubs were in the mix for Senga last year before he decided to go to New York.
This offseason, the Cubs seem even more inclined to spend in free agency and obtaining at least one top of the rotation type of starting pitcher is a priority. Imanaga may not be a house-hold name in the United States, but he’s been a stud pitching in Japan and has all the traits of a pitcher who can succeed in MLB.