While the SF Giants missed out on top NPB pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, they could pivot to the next best NPB alternative. According to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, star NPB hurler Shōta Imanaga is expected to meet with teams starting next week.
SF Giants pitching target to meet with teams starting next week
The Giants had been connected to Imanaga earlier this month, and Speier reiterates that point, confirming that the Giants are among the interested teams. They will be competing with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, New York Mets, and the Chicago Cubs for the left-handed pitcher.
That said, Speier notes that the Red Sox have been shopping closer to the middle of the market, so targeting Imanaga is in contrast to what they have conveyed. That could change.
Not surprisingly, the teams involved in Imanaga are some of the same teams who recruited Yamamoto before he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a 12-year, $325 million deal. As I mentioned here, the Mets' interest in a frontline starter felt specific to Yamamoto. They could be a player for Imanaga just as the Red Sox might be, but it feels like it would be against the grain with how they have operated this winter.
The same could be said for the Chicago Cubs, who have not signed a player to a major league contract this winter. That leaves the Giants, Yankees, and a mystery team as some of the top potential landing spots for the 30-year-old pitcher. Both teams are motivated to add one of the top remaining starters and Imanaga would check that box.
The southpaw pitcher is coming off of another excellent 2023 campaign with the Yokohama Bay Stars of the NPB in which he posted a 2.66 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, and a 7.83 SO/W ratio in 24 starts. Across eight seasons with Yokohama, Imanaga has tallied a 2.96 ERA, 94. K/9, and a 3.93 SO/W ratio.
Philosophically, he likely aligns better with the Giants than other options because he commands all four quadrants of the strike zone. He has earned the nickname "The Throwing Philosopher" due in part to his above-average command.
MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Imanaga would land a five-year, $85 million pact, but it could be even higher than that if enough of the big-market clubs are involved. He was posted by the Bay Stars at the end of November and his posting window runs through January 11, 2024. Whichever team signs him will owe the Bay Stars a posting fee.