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BREAKING: Cubs Add Japanese LHP Shota Imanaga

It has been a long time coming for Chicago Cubs fans who have been patiently waiting for President of Baseball Ops Jed Hoyer to make a splash this free agency. After many jokes about bringing in catcher Brian Serven on a wavier claim, the Cubs have finally made a real signing with left-hander Shota Imanaga, per Bob Nightengale. The length of the deal is not known yet, but current reports suggest that the average annual value will be $15 million per season.

"The Throwing Philosopher," has played eight seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball for the Yokohama Bay Stars. In those eight seasons, he posted an ERA of 3.18, a WHIP of 1.12, and 9.2 strikeouts per nine. In 2023, his 68% strikeout percentage would have been No. 1 on the Cubs and tied for fifth in baseball with Spencer Strider, who had 281 strikeouts for the Atlanta Braves this past season.


Scouting Report

For those unfamiliar with Imanaga's game, the best way I can describe it is by saying he strikes guys out by throwing strikes. Imanaga doesn't have the overpowering velocity of Hunter Greene and Sandy Alcantara or the elite level of command that Kyle Hendricks had back in his Cy Young level days. Imanaga is a smart player and he knows how to get hitters off balance to send them to the bench.


The main pitch of his arsenal is a four-seam fastball, which while only topping out at 91-93 mph, has some nasty vertical movement. It has 20 inches of vertical movement, making it difficult to pick up combined with the low release point.

Imanaga also comes with five other pitchers in his "bag," including a slider (with a sweeper and normal variations), two different grips on his splitter, a curveball, a cutter, and his seldom-used changeup. The splitter seems to be Imanaga's best pitch out of the bunch, carrying a 40% whiff rate in 2023 and combined with the fastball, induces groundballs at a 50% rate.


The main concern comes with him potentially giving up a lot of home runs with his more flyball style, rather than groundball pitching. It made sense why the Yankees passed on him, considering the short dimensions at Yankee Stadium. For me, while the dimensions are different at Wrigley Field, once that summer air hits in June, July, and August, how will Imanaga hold up when the ball flys out of the park with regularity? It's not a question of whether he can be effective, I think he has the stuff to do it, it comes down to whether his style of pitching works in the MLB.


My Final Thoughts

I think Imanaga is the perfect Marcus Stroman replacement and adds to a Cubs staff that desperately needed a strikeout pitcher outside of Justin Steele. The Cubs have a great middle-infield in Gold-Golvers Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner behind any pitcher they throw out there, but the Cubs need to generate more strikeouts. They sat 19th in the league a year ago in that category with 1377 on the season. 7 of the top 10 teams in strikeouts from last season made the playoffs, including the Braves, Rays, and Twins. Imanaga will undoubtedly help in that area and I look forward to him striking out a ton of hitters at Wrigley Field this season.


I am thankful to Stroman for his love for the Cubs, the city of Chicago, and the fans, but I think both sides should move on. He was good for the Cubs and wore his passion on his sleeve, which is all fans ever ask out players.


I am excited for not only Imanaga to sign with the Cubs for what he is as a player but what could this mean for the Cubs down the road. We aren't too far removed from Nightengale saying that the Cubs would be very active during the next five weeks and here we are a few days later with the first one. The Cubs have made offers to Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, and Jordan Montgomery, among several others. This is a good signing Cubs fans, enjoy the moment and welcome in the newest Chicago Cub: Shota Imanaga.


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