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MLB rumor roundup: Shota Imanaga set for nine-figure deal, Reds likely standing pat

We’ve got all the latest Hot Stove rumors from around the Majors on Wednesday, including a rumored $100 million-plus for one of the top remaining pitchers on the market and the Reds possibly sitting out the rest of the offseason.

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Japan’s starting pitcher Shota Imanaga pitches against Taiwan in the first inning during the Asia Professional Baseball Championships preliminary round match between Japan and Taiwan at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on November 18, 2017. Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

The calendar has fliipped to 2024, and with the holiday behind us, expect the Hot Stove to get cranking again soon — with 15 of our top 25 free agents still available and lots of money freed up now that Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto are off the market. So Who’s heading where? Each weekday, we’ll be bringing you the latest news, rumors and reports from around MLB. Wednesday’s edition features plenty of interesting items, from a potential $100 million payday for another star Japanese pitcher to further details on the Chris Sale trade to the Reds likely sitting out the rest of the offseason.

MLB Hot Stove rumors: Wednesday, Jan. 3

Imanaga expected to command nine figures

With Yamamoto headed to the Dodgers, the starting pitching market should accelerate pretty quickly — with plenty of teams who missed out having holes in their rotation and plenty of money to spend. One beneficiary of that development? Yamamoto’s countryman, 30-year-old lefty Shota Imanaga. Imanaga is much older than Yamamoto and doesn’t have nearly the same sort of pure stuff, but he’s been excellent over the last three years for NPB’s Yokohama BayStars. His fastball/slider combo projects very well to the Majors, and while his age and lack of a true third pitch might limit his upside, don’t expect those mitigating factors to impact his market: Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Imanaga is expected to land a contract in excess of $100 million when all is said and done. Given the limited remaining options for teams in need of pitching — Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are the two impact free agents still on the market, while Dylan Cease and Corbin Burnes could be had via trade but will demand a hefty package in return — that doesn’t sound too farfetched.

Braves without much to spend despite Sox paying Sale

Despite Chris Sale’s $27.5 million salary for 2024, the Braves are only on the hook for a half-million of that — with $17 million coming from the Red Sox and $10 million deferred until 2039, per a report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Yet more reason to like that trade for Atlanta, who acquired a pitcher who still has very real upside for a prospect in Vaughn Grissom that didn’t figure into their future plans.

Still, the Braves are set to have a payroll of $240 million next season, so it appears likely they are full and won’t be adding anyone else. Which begs the question: Is their rotation good enough? We know Atlanta will score a boatload of runs, but those crooked numbers are harder to come by in the postseason, where the Braves have fallen short to the Phillies each of the last two years. GM Alex Anthopoulos did his best to address that this winter, and the quintet of Sale, Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Bryce Elder looks pretty strong on paper. It also comes with plenty of injury risk, however, and with Fried, Morton and potentially Sale set to hit the market next year, Atlanta will hope to get contributions from youngsters like AJ Smith-Shawver, Huascar Ynoa and Hurston Waldrep.

Reds done making major moves?

Maybe this is just a smokescreen, but it sure seems like Cincy is standing pat until spring training: Reds general manager Nick Krall told reporters, including The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans, that the team is likely done with both “major signings” and trades. Krall and Co. have done pretty nice work to this point, bolstering the bullpen with Nick Martinez and Emilio Pagan, adding a solid bat in Jeimer Candelario and taking a smart flier on former Yankee Frankie Montas. But Candelario only adds to the team’s infield logjam, and this rotation was in need of more than just a flier; it’s a bit odd to hear that Cincy isn’t considering some sort of consolidation trade, flipping one of their young infielders for a starter like Burnes, Cease or Shane Bieber. Internal growth alone could help the Reds improve on their 82 wins from 2023 — and it’s possible that Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft all finally put together healthy, productive seasons — but as it stands this pitching staff once again appears to be a weakness.