Cubs do the thing, sign Shota Imanaga

In Commentary And Analysis by berselius96 Comments

The Cubs finally broke the seal and made a major league transaction, signing Japanese lefty starting pitcher Shota Imanaga. The news broke earlier this week, but the details of the Rube Goldberg machine of a contract didn’t take shape until late this evening. Here’s the rundown, with all the conditionals

Nominal contract:

If no one does anything, Shota Imanaga is under contract for 4 years and $53 million.

After year 2:

The Cubs can decide to add a fifth year to the contract, for an extra $27 million. If they do not choose to do this, Imanaga can opt to give up the rest of the contract and become a free agent. Or he can stick around on the original deal.

After year 3:

If neither side opts to do anything after year 2, the same deal is on the table. 1/27 extension, free agency, or Imanaga remains.

Nothing has been reported as far as the year-by-year breakdowns that I can see, so basically it sounds like it can be any of (spitballing on the numbers here)

  • 2/23
  • 3/38
  • 4/53
  • 5/80

This deal seems like a steal for the Cubs – even if it’s a complete bust, 4/53 is more than eat-able for this team. And if Imanaga looks good, they basically have the first right of refusal to keep him around instead of him just opting out after 2 years, which is something I more or less expect in most of the big FA deals that Boras is likely pushing.

How good is Imanaga?

He’s kind of hard to find a comp for, as most left handed starters tend to follow the Randy Johnson mold (i.e., super tall), while Imanaga is “only” 5′ 10″. His fastball only gets up to 92 or so (as a starter), and given that he’s 30 years old there’s not much hope of that number ticking up. It does reportedly have a great spin rate, so I guess it’s not surprising that the Cubs targeted him (not that spin rate is really much of an inefficiency these days…) His slider is probably his best pitch but like other big name Japanese pitchers that have come to MLB he mixes in a lot of stuff, including a splitter that’s his main strikeout pitch. With his height and a relatively low release point, his pitches could look a lot different than what most batters see in MLB which might also provide a little extra juice to his stuff.

He’s been a decent strikeout guy but his calling card is his incredible command – he only walked only 1.4 batters per nine innings in NPB last year, a personal best, and his career walk numbers are Cyle-esque. When batters do make contact, he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher, which could be….interesting…on certain days at Wrigley Field. That makes me think of former Cub Ted Lilly, who certainly wasn’t a giant by MLB lefty standards either (6 feet). I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar distribution of runs by Imanaga – in a month he’ll have five starts where he gives up one run or less and one where he gives up eight in two innings. In overall numbers that doesn’t look as great but might give the team a better chance at winning more games.

Dammit, now that I’ve thought of Lilly I can’t get the comp out of my head. Player comps are the wooooorst. Still, Lilly gave the Cubs 14.5 WAR over three and a half seasons, and I’m sure the Cubs would be thrilled with the same for Imanaga.

As far as any downsides go, Imanaga is a little older than most high profile free agents, though he does not have much of an injury history to speak of. Japanese pitchers don’t pitch quite as many innings as MLB pitchers do. Or at least, as much as they used to. He’s averaged around 150 innings per non-Covid year.

All in all this seems like a pretty great signing, and hopefully not the last one as this team still has glaring needs at corner infield and CF.

UPDATE 1/17:

The AP has the fine print on the structuring of the Imanaga deal, sounds like the various permutations are

Year 1: 10m
Year 2: 13m
Year 3, if no one exercises an option: 15m
Year 3, if Cubs exercise option after year 2: 20m
Year 4, if no options: 15m
Year 4, if Cubs exercise option after year 2: 20m
Year 4, if Cubs exercise option after year 3: 24m
Year 5, if Cubs exercise option after year 2: 17m
Year 5, if Cubs exercise option after year 3: 18m

So possible outcomes

2/23, if Cubs don’t extend and Imanaga opts out after year 2
3/38 if no extension the second time and Imanaga opts out after year 3
4/53 if no one picks any options (seems unlikely)
5/80, if Cubs pick up option/extension after year 2 or 3

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  1. andcounting

    berselius,

    Maybe he turned over a new leaf after all the Shohei nonsense. IIRC he was one of the first to report on Imanaga, so maybe he has new Cubs connections who aren’t chronically full of shit. (dying laughing)

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  2. andcounting

    Just occurred to me that 4 out of the last 14 World Series champions were managed by Bruce Bochy and he went three of those seasons without even working.

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  3. Rice Cube

    dmick89,

    If this were an episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse (RIP), the word of the day would be “pivot” …the way it reads now is that many teams are waiting for the Bally bankruptcy thing to shake out so they know if they get that revenue and how much, but also many key suitors for Belli might have pivoted to other strategies. Dansby Swanson and pretty much every Cubs fan at the convention were pressuring them to bring him back, so it seems inevitable that Jed and friends will eventually win this silly game of chicken.

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  4. andcounting

    dmick89:
    So what’s the latest with the Cubs owners support of fascism this election?

    The Ricketts family are to fascism what the Dodgers were to Ohtani.

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  5. Rice Cube

    dmick89,

    I may be mistaken but I feel like that runs counter to what MLB wanted in controlling the broadcast rights themselves, however, since we are subscribed to Prime, perhaps I will finally be able to watch Marquee even if their programming is a tad suspect…

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  6. Perkins

    Willie Stargell was more popular than I expected.

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  7. Rice Cube

    dmick89,

    BN’s take

    There is still a ton that is unknown about how an Amazon investment in Diamond would work, especially since Diamond holds the streaming rights for only five of the Bally teams (so Amazon would get getting the direct-to-consumer rights for only the Tigers, Royals, Marlins, Twins, and Rays with this deal). We know that MLB was opposed to a deal like this, since THEY want to get the streaming rights back from Diamond, and MLB can object in court. The investment is also apparently quite small (only a bit over $100 million), and even if this helps Diamond exit bankruptcy for now, I’m not so sure this is a long-term answer without figuring out a more comprehensive streaming approach.

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  8. Rice Cube

    Perkins,

    It’s either Willie or Dave Parker as your go-to big boy Pirates from that era, after that it’s like Bonds and McCutchen…I used Jason Bay because I remember him for some reason

    ⚾️ Immaculate Grid 290 9/9:
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  9. Perkins

    Rice Cube,

    I used Jason Bay for SEA-PIT so no dice there. My initial thoughts were Bay, Cutch, and Stargell and figured Cutch would be the most common. For some reason I always assume recency bias from rhe crowd. (dying laughing)

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  10. Author
    berselius

    Counsell tried to get a role in Major League:

    β€œI was about 16 and I wanted to be one of the players,” Counsell said. β€œI went to the casting (call). I played in what they called the beer leagues with older guys because they didn’t have all the travel baseball stuff (back then). They told me they were all going to the casting because they were like 25-year-olds who were decent baseball players. And then I went to it and they were like, β€˜Eh, you look like you’re 12. You could be the bat boy.’ So then I went home.”

    (dying laughing)

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  11. Author
    berselius

    The AP has the fine print on the structuring of the Imanaga deal, sounds like the various permutations are

    Year 1: 10m
    Year 2: 13m
    Year 3, if no one exercises an option: 15m
    Year 3, if Cubs exercise option after year 2: 20m
    Year 4, if no options: 15m
    Year 4, if Cubs exercise option after year 2: 20m
    Year 4, if Cubs exercise option after year 3: 24m
    Year 5, if Cubs exercise option after year 2: 17m
    Year 5, if Cubs exercise option after year 3: 18m

    So possible outcomes

    2/23, if Cubs don’t extend and Imanaga opts out after year 2
    3/38 if no extension the second time and Imanaga opts out after year 3
    4/53 if no one picks any options (seems unlikely)
    5/80, if Cubs pick up option/extension after year 2 or 3

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  12. Rice Cube

    9:50am: Josh Kosman of The New York Post reports that Amazon is giving Diamond roughly $100MM for the streaming rights of the Tigers, Royals, Marlins, Brewers and Rays. That money and the Sinclair settlement money could be presented to a Houston bankruptcy judge as early as today.

    Insert your viewership jokes here

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  13. Perkins

    Ugly day. I thought Cone had won 200 for sure and wasted a guess. Also assumed my pick for SD 2000K would be less popular than a guy who had 3000.

    ⚾️ Immaculate Grid 291 8/9:
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  14. Rice Cube

    Rough one for rarity especially since I don’t think the Padres had many elite pitchers of that ilk

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  15. Rice Cube

    andcounting,

    We can probably discuss it on the pod later, but that is a pretty busy part of town with a lot of businesses that might either appreciate the extra passing business or hate that the Sox are creating more traffic and parking issues…

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  16. Rice Cube

    At least he’s out of the league

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  17. Perkins

    Poor rarity, but I got five Cubs on today’s board.

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  18. Author
    berselius

    Packers Lions NFCCG would have been epic. Not sure the city of Detriot would still be standing after whatever the outcome (dying laughing).

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  19. Perkins

    Not common to see LaTtoy Hawkins as my most common answer.

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  20. Author
    berselius

    Richard Staff
    @RichardStaff
    Β·
    Follow
    Ron DeSantis spending $300M to embarrass himself and come in fourth place is a heartwarming tribute to the New York Mets
    1:57 PM Β· Jan 21, 2024

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  21. Perkins

    Rice Cube:
    berselius,

    It’s amazing, actually…one, that he raised or had that much money to light on fire, and two that somehow he wasn’t shitty enough to outdo the front-runner.

    I think for people inclined that way, there’s something uniquely awful about Trump specifically that attracts them. He makes them feel better about being the worst versions of themselves and insists they’re wonderful for it, and because he’s a gangster who has ostensibly been successful by being a piece of shit his whole life, they listen.

    Trump is a caricature of what poor people think a rich person is like, what dumb people think a smart person is like, and what weak people think a strong person is like. DeSantis is just Wuss in Boots.

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  22. Author
    berselius

    Ryno,

    The future is pretty bright. The only downside to this incredible late run is that they’ll run back Joe Barry yet again, who only ever seems to do just enough to be constantly on the hot seat. I was hoping the Jets would fire Saleh, having his best man available would probably be enough for LaFleur to upgrade at DC.

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  23. Perkins

    Rice Cube,

    I would say Lester has a better than outside shot at election by the BBWAA. While his career wasn’t as strong overall as Andy Pettitte’s, he was very good for a long time and has a really strong postseason resumΓ© with the advantage of being perceived as β€œclean.” I’m guessing his role in the 2016 postseason will carry a lot of narrative weight for voters as well.

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  24. Rice Cube

    Perkins,

    Seems like Lester would get some of the Jack Morris type of love, but despite the steroid thing it’s weird that Pettitte gets dinged for it although his career ERA is better than Morris too (Lester is better too for that matter)

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  25. Author
    berselius

    My gut says no to Lester as a HoF, but I’d say the same about Morris and Pettite so (dying laughing). Now that Pat and Ron are in I can pay even less attention to it

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  26. Rice Cube

    I’ll write up the HOF stuff later because I have nothing better to do at the moment, but I guess those of you with actual access can watch it unfold on MLB Network soon

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