Shōta Imanaga looks to add patented cerebral approach to Cubs starting rotation

Shōta Imanaga looks to add patented cerebral approach to Cubs starting rotation originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Shōta Imanaga immediately won over Cubs fans with his opening line during his introductory press conference on Friday at the Cubs convention.

"Hey, Chicago! What do you say? The Cubs are going to win today." Imanaga said in broken English.

On Tuesday, the Cubs signed Imanaga, 30, to a four-year contract worth $53 million with options in Years 2 and 3 to extend Imanaga's contract to a fifth season, according to several reports.

Imanaga spoke to the media through translator Shingo Murata on Friday. Known as the "Throwing Philosopher," Imanaga's "cerebral" qualities --- as Jed Hoyer depicted them --- will surely help his transition to MLB.

And the Cubs' emphasis on his development was exactly the piece that attracted the Japanese pitcher the most. Jed Hoyer mentioned the organization has been scouting him since last September.

"One of the things that resonated was they said they believe in my potential and do what I do best," Imanaga said through Murata. "But at the same time I realized that there's a lot of room for me to grow and I really look forward to talking to the Cubs' pitching coaches, my teammates, and to try to reach that potential to get us closer to that as I can."

Imanaga has played in NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) for the past eight seasons with the Yokohama Bay Stars. There, he played in 165 games (started 62), holding a career 3.18 ERA with over 1,000 strikeouts and just 280 walks. He held an astounding 1.12 WHIP, too.

Still, criticism exists for players who earn major contracts in MLB without having played in the league. Imanaga has to adjust to playing with a pitch clock and pitching every five days, as opposed to a usually longer period of rest before his next start in NPB.

But Imanaga doesn't fear that will be a problem. He plans to consult the mentorship of his teammates and coaches to help him adjust to pitching in the majors; after all, he's earmarked the "throwing philosopher."

"I want to keep an open mind and seek advice from a lot of people," Imanaga said through Murata. "Luckily, I have the time in spring training so I can talk to the managers, the coaching staff, my teammates and figure out what works for me and just give everything a try and make the adjustment as we go."

The Cubs have a history of bringing Japanese players into the organization. Most notably, the Cubs were home to Yu Darvish and Kosuke Fukudome. Jed Hoyer made note that the Cubs are always trying to improve their means of comforting and creating a "smooth transition" for Japanese players.

Now, the Cubs fortunately have another Japanese player on the team: Seiya Suzuki. Imanaga said he did not speak with Suzuki before he signed with the Cubs. But they have a relationship dating back to Suzuki's days in NPB and he shared excitement with his new teammate upon learning of his signing.

"He was excited and showed happiness as if it was happening to Seiya himself. That really excites me and I really look forward to helping the Cubs team together."

MORE: How Shota Imanaga fits in the Cubs' 2024 rotation

Imanaga will fit snuggly into the Cubs' rotation. Along with Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon, the Cubs are starting to build a more formidable, concrete rotation.

The fifth spot is, in essence, open for grabs. Javier Assad, Hayden Wesnewski, Jordan Wicks and even Drew Smyly will all get their shot at grabbing the final spot.

The Cubs could theoretically add another arm to the rotation, too. They're been tied to Jordan Montgomery's name. And while Blake Snell and Dylan Cease are being held at a high asking price, they're still in the open market (trade market, for Cease).

Either way, they checked off one box with Imanaga.

"I am very happy to be here and to be a Cub," Imanaga said. "I want to say thank you to the entire Cubs organization for having me. I am very excited to pitch at Wrigley Field. I am looking forward to fans and teammates. Go Cubs go!"

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