Chicago Cubs agree to contract with Japanese left-hander Shōta Imanaga, AP source says

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs bolstered their rotation Tuesday, agreeing to a contract with Japanese left-hander Shōta Imanaga in their first major offseason roster move.

A person familiar with the agreement confirmed it to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

The 30-year-old Imanaga, who got the win for Japan in last year’s World Baseball Classic final against the United States, has until 5 p.m. EST on Thursday to reach an agreement with a major league team.

Chicago had been quiet since it hired Craig Counsell as manager in November, replacing David Ross in a surprise move. The Cubs were in position for an NL wild card last year before stumbling in September, fading to an 83-79 record after finishing under .500 in the previous two seasons.

Imanaga gives Chicago a replacement for Marcus Stroman, who became a free agent after opting out of his contract. The Cubs also have lefty Justin Steele and right-handers Kyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon penciled into their rotation.

Cody Bellinger is a free agent after a resurgent season in Chicago, and the Cubs are hoping to re-sign the slugger. They also could add a corner infielder or two before spring training begins next month.

Imanaga was 7-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 22 starts this year for the Yokohama BayStars of Japan’s Central League. He struck out 174 and walked 24 in 148 innings.

Imanaga, recognizable for throwback-style high socks, was regarded as the second prominent Japanese pitcher on the free agent market after 25-year-old right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who finalized a $325 million, 12-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers last month.

Imanaga was 64-50 with a 3.18 ERA in eight seasons with Yokohama, striking out 1,021 and walking 280 in 1,002 2/3 innings.

His fastball averaged 93.5 mph in the WBC final, when he allowed one run and four hits in two innings, giving up a home run to Trea Turner.

Under the MLB-NPB agreement, the posting fee will be 20% of the first $25 million of a major league contract, including earned bonuses and options. The percentage drops to 17.5% of the next $25 million and 15% of any amount over $50 million. There would be a supplemental fee of 15% of any earned bonuses, salary escalators and exercised options.


AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this story.