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MLB Offseason Round-Up: Pirates Had Interest in Shota Imanaga

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Ben Cherington

This is one in a series of daily articles highlighting the latest news and notes from the MLB offseason.

The Chicago Cubs’ first free agent splash of the MLB offseason came in the form of Japanese right-hander Shota Imanaga.

The two sides are in agreement on a complex deal that is expected to be finalized before Imanaga’s window to sign closes on Thursday evening.

The details of the deal are as follows — it’s a four-year guarantee worth $53 million and has a club option for a fifth season. Chicago has the ability after the 2025 season and again in 2026 to exercise the option which could escalate the deal to $80 million. If the Cubs decline to exercise the option, Imanaga would be able to opt-out of the deal and return to free agency.

Got all that? Good… I hope.

While the Cubs landed Imanaga’s services, they weren’t the only National League Central team looking to sign him. According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, the Pittsburgh Pirates were interested in the 30-year-old.

It’s been no secret the Pirates have been searching for starting pitching help this winter, even after landing Marco Gonzales and Martín Pérez. However, their interest in Imanaga represents a would-be financial commitment they’ve never given in the free agent market.

The Pirates’ largest free agent deal in franchise history was a three-year, $39 million to Francisco Liriano in 2014. Under Ben Cherington, the Pirates have never signed a free agent to a multi-year contract.

While they weren’t able to agree to a deal with Imanaga in the end, their interest is a further indication of adding another rotation piece. Perhaps their interest in Imanaga could serve as some optimism they are willing to go outside of their comfort zone to do so.

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