Cubs, lefty Shota Imanaga reach 4-year, $53M deal

The Cubs have agreed to a four-year contract with Japanese lefty Shota Imanaga, the deal is worth $53 million.

The deal has several provisions, including the team’s option to extend the contract — after both Years 2 and 3 — to $80 million over five years, sources said. But if the Cubs decline in either year, Imanaga can choose to become a free agent or remain on the original contract.

The Cubs revealed their agreement with Imanaga on Thursday without disclosing the value.

The deal came as Imanaga’s posting window was coming to a close. He had until Thursday to sign with an MLB team or return to the Yokohama Bay Stars in Nippon Professional Baseball. The Cubs will also pay $9,825,000 to the Bay Stars in the form of a release fee.

Imanaga is seen as perhaps the best pitcher in the second tier of this free agent class, with countrymen Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto joining Blake Snell, Aaron Nola and Jordan Montgomery among the most sought-after arms.

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This is the first major move of the offseason by the Cubs, who still have holes at first and potentially third base. A reunion with center fielder Cody Bellinger is still possible, though the sides haven’t closed in on a deal yet.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had interest in Imanaga, according to sources, but finally the lefty chose Chicago, where he has been based since Christmas.

Imanaga fits near the top of the Cubs’ rotation behind ace Justin Steele. 

Jameson Taillon and Kyle Hendricks slot in next, with youngsters Jordan Wicks and Javier Assad in the mix at the back end.

Steele is under team control for several more years, while Taillon is on a long-term deal. Hendricks will be a free agent after the 2024 season.

Besides Wicks and Assad, the team is also banking on its farm system to keep churning out pitchers, as highly touted prospects Cade Horton and Ben Brown could make their way to the big leagues next season.

Imanaga started the World Baseball Classic final for Team Japan and earned the win versus the U.S., allowing one run over two innings, while Team USA starter Merrill Kelly gave up two runs in 1⅓ innings. In six innings at the WBC, Imanaga allowed two runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

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