NPB: Report Indicates LHP Shoto Imanaga Will Be Posted to Sign in MLB

Shoto Imanaga of Samurai Japan throws during the Japan Workout and press conference at loanDepot park on March 19, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Masterpress – Samurai Japan/SAMURAI JAPAN via Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

The offseason market for Japanese pitching has just gotten more interesting.

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweeted Wednesday morning that the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Nippon Professional Baseball would post Shoto Imanaga this coming offseason, enabling Major League Baseball teams to submit bids to sign the star pitcher.

Imanaga has thrown 133.1 innings for the BayStars in 2023, posting a 2.57 ERA with a WHIP of .945 in 20 appearances. He started the 2023 World Baseball Classic Championship Game at loanDepot Park against the United States in Miami, helping Japan win their third WBC title. During the World Baseball Classic, Imanaga pitched in three games, throwing six innings with a 3.00 ERA and allowing seven hits, two earned runs, two home runs, and striking out seven batters including a 1.17 WHIP. 

In 2022, Imanaga went 11-4 with a 2.32 ERA throwing three complete games with two shutouts pitching 143.2 innings allowing 106 hits, 14 home runs, 29 walks, and 132 strikeouts facing 560 batters while eclipsing a 0.940 WHIP. 

With a low-to-mid 90s fastball and several other pitches, Imanaga uses finesse rather than power to get batters out. He’ll mix in cutters and splitters, and throws several other pitches on occasion. 

The New York Mets gave Kodai Senga a five-year, $75 million contract last offseason when Senga was posted by the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, though Senga was an international free agent who didn’t have to go through the posting system because he had played nine seasons as a professional. 

According to Yakyu Cosmopolitan, seven Major League Baseball teams were in attendance for Imanaga’s June 23 start against the Hanshin Tigers, when he threw a complete game in the BayStars’ 3-1 win, allowing six hits, one walk, one earned run, and striking out 10.

Imanaga is likely to be joined by Orix Buffaloes pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto on the posting list, and each pitcher could potentially earn the BayStars a pile of cash. Once posted, a player is free to negotiate a contract with any MLB club, with the club signing the player paying a posting fee based upon the total value of the contract.

The record posting fee for a pitcher was the $51,703,411 paid by the Texas Rangers to negotiate a contract with Yu Darvish in December 2011, a total which surpassed the $51,111,111.11 paid by the Boston Red Sox for the right to negotiate a contract with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Subsequent posting system agreements between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball linked the posting fee to the value of a posted player’s contract with the MLB club.

Players signed via the posting system are subject to international bonus pool restrictions unless they are 25 years old and have played at least six seasons in a foreign professional league recognized by Major League Baseball. 

Both Imanaga, who is 30 years old and has played eight seasons in NPB with the BayStars, and Yamamoto, who is 25 and has played seven seasons for Oriz, will not be subject to international bonus pool restrictions, so there is potential for each player to receive a contract with a value near $100 million.

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