The Chicago Cubs have finally made a notable deal, it has been reported that free agent starting pitcher Shōta Imanaga has agreed to sign with the North Siders. It was first reported by USA Today's Bob Nightengale, with confirmation from Jon Heyman. Imanaga, 30, has pitched professionally in Japan since 2016 and is coming off a season in which he pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, and a 1.4 BB/9 in 159 innings. Worth noting he pitched in the World Baseball Classic last year. Imanaga will have a physical on Thursday before the deal is official.
While he does not feature the firepower fastball like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, with a fastball in the lower 90s, he was a high-strikeout pitcher in Japan with the movement and location of his pitches. He boasts 1,021 career strikeouts in 1002.2 NPB innings. He also features a slider, which can sometimes feature a sweeper-type break, a splitter, curve, and offspeed stuff.
The hope is that in an environment like Wrigley Field, he can execute similarly to how he did overseas relying on movement and location to miss bats and get outs. Missing bats is something the Cubs pitching staff as a whole can use more of, and this is a situation with a pitcher who has historically missed bats but not necessarily with firepower.
It will also be curious to see how his fastball command will look and how he will mix up his pitches, especially if he is pitching during a warm afternoon with the wind blowing out. The home run ball has been something he has been prone to giving up, 280 of them in his NPB career. There will be some adjustments on his part but the stuff he features is legit and there is confidence he will be able to execute in the Majors.
Right now Steamer projects him to pitch to a 3.84 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 9.17 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 in 148 innings with a 2.6 fWAR. The projections overall like him still being able to strike guys out at a good clip and feature solid command in his first year in the Majors.