HomeMLB RumorsYankees Interested In Shota Imanaga

Yankees Interested In Shota Imanaga

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As the Yankees consider the pitching market, left-hander Shota Imanaga is one of the many hurlers on the team’s radar, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post.  Imanaga would essentially be a backup plan if the Yankees can’t sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who has long been cited as one of the Bronx Bombers’ top offseason targets.

It isn’t a stretch to say other teams could be viewing Imanaga in the same manner, given the overlap in suitors between his market and Yamamoto’s market.  The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets, and Tigers have all been linked to both Japanese pitchers at various points this offseason, and the Cubs are the only known Imanaga suitor who doesn’t appear to be in on Yamamoto.  This could theoretically give Chicago a slight edge in being able to more fully focus on its courtship of Imanaga, yet the southpaw and his reps probably aren’t likely to sign a deal until Yamamoto makes his decision, so Imanaga can perhaps benefit by finding a larger deal in a thinning pitching market.

The clock is ticking for Yamamoto and Imanaga given the 45-day posting windows for both players, though there is plenty of time left for the two pitchers to land contracts.  Yamamoto has until January 4 to sign with a Major League team, while Imanaga has until January 9.  As per the terms of the MLB/NPB posting system, a Japanese team who posts a player is entitled to a posting fee worth 20% of first $25MM of the player’s eventual big league contract, 17.5% of the next $25MM, of anything beyond the $50MM threshold.  For instance, the Yokohama BayStars (Imanaga’s NPB team) would receive a $13.875MM release fee if the lefty signed the five-year, $85MM deal predicted in MLBTR’s top 50 free agents list.

Recent reports have suggested that the 30-year-old Imanaga might land a contract closer to $100MM, speaking to both the rising costs of pitching and the interest in his services.  That would still make Imanaga a much less costly proposition than Yamamoto, whose price tag was expected to top $200MM heading into the offseason and now might be approaching the $300MM mark.

Imanaga is almost five years older than Yamamoto and isn’t considered to have a similar ace-level ceiling, but Imanaga projects as a solid middle-of-the-rotation type of arm as he makes the move from Nippon Professional Baseball to the majors.  Imanaga has a 3.18 ERA over 1002 2/3 career innings for the BayStars, with excellent control, very good strikeout numbers, and quite a bit of durability (with the exception of a shoulder surgery in 2020).

The Yankees dealt away a good chunk of their rotation depth by moving Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vasquez, and top prospect Drew Thorpe to the Padres in the Juan Soto trade.  Gerrit Cole is the ace of a staff that includes Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt, and the fifth spot in the rotation is now a question mark with King in San Diego.  Signing Imanaga would bolster the rotation for 2024 and beyond, and while a $100MM deal isn’t exactly a bargain signing, New York might prefer that outlay to other alternatives.  Signing another top pitcher might cost even more in both money or in draft picks (for a qualifying offer-rejecting hurler), or the Yankees would have to surrender even more young talent to land a top trade chip like Corbin Burnes or Dylan Cease.

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