MLB insider confirms the SF Giants interest in star left-handed pitcher from the NPB

World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan
World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan / Eric Espada/GettyImages

If the SF Giants miss out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, they could pivot to two-time Cy Young winner Blake Snell. However, they have reportedly shown interest in another NPB pitcher - Shōta Imanaga.

MLB insider confirms the SF Giants interest in star left-handed pitcher from the NPB

Jon Morosi of the MLB Network reported the rumor on Saturday. He added the caveat that Imanaga's market is likely to become clearer once Yamamoto signs. Yamamoto was posted by the Orix Buffaloes in November and his posting period runs through the beginning of January. At most, his 2024 status will be resolved within the next two or more weeks.

For Imanaga, there have been very few rumors on his market despite the fact that he was posted at the end of November. His posted period runs through January 11.

However, the left-handed hurler might be a better fit for the Giants' risk tolerance than someone like Blake Snell. Snell is a very accomplished pitcher, having won a Cy Young award in both the American League and National League. He will enter his age-31 season in 2024 and will likely command a contract of more than five years. That would keep him under contract until his mid-to-late 30's.

Interestingly, Imanaga is not too much younger as he just completed his age-29 season with the Yokohama Bay Stars. However, MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he should receive a contract in the neighborhood of five years and $85 million. This is an educated data point and could deviate from that number substantially.

That said, he is likely not going to receive anywhere near the seven-year, $200 million pact Snell is expected to score in free agency.

Imanaga is coming off of a successful 2023 campaign in which he tallied a 2.66 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, and a 7.83 SO/W ratio across 26 starts for the Bay Stars. Through eight NPB seasons, the lefty pitcher has posted a 3.18 ERA while consistently make around 25 starts per seasons, which is a full workload in the NPB.

His pitch mix includes a mid-90's, high-spin fastball that he pairs with a splitter, slider, and a curveball. Lefty pitchers do not often throw splitters, but Imanaga's is a bit unique in that it acts a mixture between a splitter and a changeup. It has the velocity of a splitter that hovers in the high-80's but has the spin of a changeup.

The slider is a weapon against right-handed hitters in that he keeps it low and commands it away from the zone. It is not necessarily a strikeout pitch. When hitters make contact, it is generally into the ground. The curveball is not used as often but can be an effective pitch. Plus, Imanaga flashes above-average command, which is a quality that the Giants value with pitchers.

The focus will soon shift to the veteran pitcher as it feels like Yamamoto's market is nearing a conclusion. If the Giants miss out, they will continue to be in the mix for some of the top names on the market.