Cubs Rumors: Team unlikely to land Japanese pitcher Shota Imanaga

Despite a need in the rotation, the Cubs continue to avoid the top end of the free agent market.

World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan
World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan / Eric Espada/GettyImages
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Starting pitching depth isn't a glaring need for the Chicago Cubs, but even pitching coach Tommy Hottovy expressed a desire to add another arm to the mix - along with two relievers - before the team heads to Arizona for spring training.

The good news is most of the top-tier free agent starting pitchers are still available. The bad news? The Cubs appear perfectly content staying on the sidelines when it comes to the most expensive free agents - and that extends to Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga, whose Jan. 11 signing deadline is rapidly approaching.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required), the Cubs aren't expected to land Imanaga barring 'a last-minute reversal.' That still leaves the other top free agent arms, Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, as potential options - but Mooney notes that the latter is viewed as a better fit for the Cubs than this year's NL Cy Young Award winner, who led the league in ERA, but also in walks.

Cubs could look to trade market or lower-tier free agent arms instead

We've heard nothing concrete when it comes to the Cubs and Montgomery, though - and he'll have his pick of the litter when he does choose to sign, with the Yankees, Rangers, Giants and Red Sox (among others) all reportedly interested in the left-hander. He comes with a high degree of predictability, something more and more teams value, especially in these long-term deals.

Imanaga isn't facing a shortage of suitors, either, for what it's worth. The Red Sox, Giants and Mets have all been connected to the left-hander, who brings a career 3.18 ERA over from Japan. The 30-year-old southpaw is expected to command a deal of $100 million or more, despite never having thrown a pitch in the big leagues.

Chicago could pivot to the trade market, which won't take shape until Imanaga, Snell and Montgomery come off the board - or could look to a more mid-tier depth option to shore up the rotation, allowing more flexibility should Cade Horton or Ben Brown force their way into the picture this year. But don't count on any major free agent signings when it comes to the starting staff unless Hoyer is about to pull a big one over on all of us.

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