Shota Imanaga Potentially Turned Down Millions to Play for Cubs

The Japanese star pitcher wanted to play in Chicago despite an offer from another team.

Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan starting pitcher Shota Imanaga (21) delivers a pitch
Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan starting pitcher Shota Imanaga (21) delivers a pitch / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
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After a quiet first couple of months in the offseason, the Chicago Cubs made their first notable signing, reportedly inking Japanese star pitcher Shota Imanaga to a four-year, $53 million deal. 

According to Jordan Bastain of MLB.com, the Cubs have the option to extend his deal to five years ($80 million) after the 2025 and ‘26 seasons. However, if the contract isn’t extended in the ‘25 or ‘26 offseasons, Imanaga can elect to go to free agency.

Chicago wasn’t the only team competing for the left-handed starting pitcher. MLB insider Jon Heyman said on 670 The Score on Wednesday that Imanaga wanted to be in the Windy City.

“My understanding is there was a team out there, at least one team willing to more than double the guarantee appears he's gotten with the Cubs,” Heyman said. The MLB insider added, “he wanted to be a Cub obviously, and they got it done.”

Cubs News: Imanaga Bolsters Chicago's Starting Rotation

If you are a Cubs fan, this is excellent news, as the team now has another top-of-the-line starter behind Justin Steele, who was outstanding last season. Along with those two pitchers, Chicago still has veteran starting pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon.

Imanaga is coming off a stellar 2023 campaign in Nippon Professional Baseball with Yokohama DeNa Baystars. The 30-year-old starter had a 7-4 record, a 2.80 ERA, and 174 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched.

Over his eight-year career, Imanaga has produced a 3.18 ERA and has a variety of pitches he can get hitters out. Chicago hopes Imanaga can live up to expectations that he can be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, which will help them in the NL Central this upcoming season. The Cubs have the second-best odds (+210) to win the division on FanDuel Sportsbook.

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