Left-hander Shōta Imanaga and Chicago Cubs finalize $53 million, 4-year contract

CHICAGO (AP) — Japanese left-hander Shōta Imanaga and the Chicago Cubs finalized a $53 million, four-year contract on Thursday, a deal that includes a club option that could make the agreement worth $80 million over five seasons.

Chicago can exercise a 2028 option after 2025 or '26. If the team declines the option in either instance, Imanaga would have the right to opt out of the remainder of the contract to become a free agent.

Chicago must pay a posting fee of $9,825,000 to the Yokohama BayStars of Japan’s Central League. The amount of the fee would increase if the option is exercised.

The 30-year-old Imanaga, who got the win for Japan in last year’s World Baseball Classic final against the United States, had until 5 p.m. EST on Thursday for a finalized agreement to be submitted to Major League Baseball.

The addition of Imanaga was the first big player move for Chicago 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 provided 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 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 report.