Cubs get their long-needed swing-and-miss starter in Shota Imanaga

For years, Chicago has wanted more strikeout arms in the rotation. In their new free agent signing, they have landed one of the best.

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Since the peak of their World Series run back in 2016, the Chicago Cubs haven't been a team that relies on the swing-and-miss. Instead, with a Gold Glove-caliber defense up the middle, Jed Hoyer has largely focused on guys that limit hard contact and keep the ball on the ground.

But he - and pretty much everyone out there - has known that adding a big strikeout presence back to the rotation would be a need at some point and, in reported free agent addition Shota Imanaga, they finally have it.

Cubs rotation gets deeper, more balanced with Shota Imanaga signing

Imanaga, 30, led all NPB pitchers last season (yes, topping even Yoshinobu Yamamoto) in strikeouts with 174 punchouts in 148 innings (10.6 K/9). For reference, Justin Steele narrowly edged that total, with 176 strikeouts - but it took him 25+ more innings to get there (9.1 K/9).

Here's how Cubs starters have stacked up in terms of strikeouts in recent years:

  • 2023: 20th
  • 2022: 22nd
  • 2021: 28th

With the exception of Steele, no Cubs starter has surpassed even 150 strikeouts since 2019, when Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana all managed the feat - with Darvish racking up an impressive 229 on the year. If he can stay healthy, Imanaga could be the next Cubs pitcher to make a run at 200 Ks in a season - hopefully matching what last year's NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Kodai Senga accomplished in his first MLB season (2.98 ERA, 166.1 IP, 202 K).

While he's not a guy who will overpower hitters with velocity, the raw stuff and the pitch mix should translate very well to MLB. And given the early reports on what the deal itself might look like, this signing could end up being the steal of the offseason.

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