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Report: Shota Imanaga decision coming soon, and ‘it’s all pointing’ to the Giants

The lefty has until Thursday to sign in the Majors or he’ll revert back to his Japanese team.

Shota Imanaga of Team Japan pitches in the first inning during the 2023 World Baseball Classic Championship game between Team USA and Team Japan at loanDepot Park on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The baseball world is waiting for the next big free-agent domino to fall, with names like Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Cody Bellinger and Jordan Montgomery still on the market. It remains to be seen how long it’ll take each of those stars to sign, but we do know that another prominent name will almost certainly come off the board by Thursday at the latest: Shota Imanaga.

The Japanese lefty’s posting period — basically, his 45-day window to sign with a Major League team — expires at 5 p.m. ET Thursday, meaning a decision is imminent. And according to a recent report from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the San Francisco Giants are the leaders in the clubhouse.

“It’s all pointing to the Giants,” a source told Feinsand. “They missed out on [Shohei] Ohtani and [Yoshinobu] Yamamoto, and although Imanaga isn’t on the same level as those guys, they don’t want to miss out again.”

The consensus was that the Giants, Red Sox, Angels and Mets had emerged as the finalists for Imanaga’s services. But the Mets are likely done adding to their rotation after signing Sean Manaea earlier this week, the Red Sox’ finances are an open question and the Angels ... well, let’s just say the Angels are likely to have a hard time convincing free agents to come play for them.

The Giants, meanwhile, are desperate for a jolt after two straight seasons of largely anonymous, playoff-free baseball. (Of course, their arch rival’s billion-dollar offseason probably hasn’t helped.) San Francisco has added center fielder Jung Hoo Lee from Korea and dealt for former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray over the weekend, but there’s still precious little in the way of rotation depth behind stalwart Logan Webb — a need that needs to be addressed if Farhan Zaidi and Co. want to compete in 2024.

Imanaga isn’t Ohtani or Yamamoto — heck, he’s probably not even Snell or Montgomery — but he’s a desirable pitcher in his own right, with two All-Star Games and a 2.96 ERA over the course of eight seasons in Japan. He posted a 2.66 ERA in 24 starts last year, striking out 188 batters in 159 innings, while also helping Team Japan to the World Baseball Classic title. He boasts a riding fastball that misses bats up in the zone, plus a slider and the obligatory splitter as swing-and-miss options later in counts.

Add it all up, and that’s a pretty formidable arsenal. There are some questions here — the transition from NPB to the States should never be taken for granted, and at a generous 5’10 and 176 pounds, Imanaga faces some real durability concerns — but, well, that’s true of every other pitcher currently on the market as well. Imanaga won’t see the same pay day as Snell or Montgomery, but recent reports suggest that he’ll command much more than the five-year, $75 million deal that Kodai Senga signed with the Mets last offseason — with some estimates even getting over the $100 million mark.

Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations, confirmed last week that the club has “had conversations” with Imanaga’s reps, adding that the lefty has “done a really nice job over there and has a pretty active free-agent market.”