Chicago Cubs keeping an eye on the next superstar Japanese free agent

World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan / Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins/GettyImages

The early returns on the Chicago Cubs signing of Japanese starting pitcher Shota Imanaga have been great.

Imanaga has yet to allow a run in 10 innings pitched this season with his four-year deal with Cubs looking like it could be the steal of the offseason.

As the Cubs' 2024 season progresses, it's looking more and more likely that the success of the team will be dependent on their two most recent Japanese free-agent signings. Imanaga and Seiya Suzuki could prove to be cornerstones of the next Cubs' contention window and one that could be propped up by another Japanese superstar.

22-year-old starting pitcher Roki Sasaki has been itching to make the transition to Major League Baseball as speculation on his latest contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines is that he has a provision in his contract that would allow him to be posted this winter.

If Sasaki is indeed posted, he would likely jump toward the top of a free-agent class of starting pitchers. Sasaki's ask woud likely rival the 12-year, $325MM deal that Yoshinobu Yamamoto signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chicago Cubs keeping tabs on the next Japanese phenom.

The Cubs were among the teams that scouting Saski's most recent start. Sasaki has been excellent through the first four seasons of his professional career while he has an ERA of 1.91 while averaging just under 12 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.

Truth be told, the Cubs scouting of Sasaki is likely more of the due diligence variety than it is of legitimate interest. The fact remains that Sasaki is going to command a contract north of $300MM and for a team that has reservations about past the $200MM mark, a deal just does not seem possible between the two teams. As we've said before, there is going to come a time when the Cubs are going to need to make such a commitment but it likely won't be with Sasaki.

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