Shota Imanaga, a 30-year-old left-hander from Japan, is the most recent free-agent starter to sign a contract with an MLB team.
He agreed to a multi-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.
What does this mean for the Cleveland Guardians?
Well, it’s certainly not positive: the Cubs were one of the teams rumored to be interested in Shane Bieber.
The Guardians are open to the possibility of trading their former Cy Young award winner because he is on his last season of team control, about to make $12 million, and showing diminishing velocity and strikeout rates.
That’s the situation, but it becomes a problem, too: teams don’t look at him the way they used three, two, or even one year ago.
That’s probably why Cleveland hasn’t pulled the trigger on a trade.
Guardians analyst @JL_Baseball agrees that the Cubs signing Imanaga significantly lowers the chances of them acquiring Bieber.
“That certainly probably lessens whatever interest the Cubs had in Bieber,” he tweeted.
That certainly probably lessens whatever interest the Cubs had in Bieber. https://t.co/eXTXJ9Wox1
— Justin (BSky – jlbaseball) (@JL_Baseball) January 10, 2024
In a season in which he missed multiple weeks with elbow inflammation, Bieber saw his ERA balloon to 3.80 in 2023, from 2.88 in 2022.
His strikeout rate is also rapidly declining: it went from 41.1 percent in 2020 to 33 percent in 2021, to 25 percent in 2022, to 20.1 percent this past season.
However, he is so good that even with the adversity, he managed to post a sub-4.00 ERA in 2023 and showed in a couple of September starts that his elbow is not an issue.
It’s a matter of finding a team with the willingness to gamble on a high-risk, high-upside starter.