Yankees, Mets scout Japanese alternative as Yamamoto sweepstakes linger

Japanese ace Shota Imanaga is a potential target for the Yankees if a deal for Yamamoto fails.
X-@BasebaIlKing
Sara Molnick
Friday December 15, 2023

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The Yankees are exploring the possibility of acquiring Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga should they be unsuccessful in securing Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a sentiment shared by the Mets. Other teams such as the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Cubs are also expressing interest in Imanaga, who remains patient as the decision on Yamamoto unfolds.

According to Jon Heyman of The New York Post, both the Yankees and the Mets have the Japanese pitcher as the option if they fail to entice Yamamoto to the city.

Who is Shota Imanaga

At 30 years old, the left-handed Imanaga captured gold pitching for Japan at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He built on that success over the course of the NPB season with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, recording a 7-4 record, 2.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 174 strikeouts across 148 innings pitched. Imanaga demonstrated excellent command, posting a career-best 7.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Over his 8 seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball thus far, Imanaga has compiled a strong resume, with a 74-54 lifetime record and 2.96 ERA. He has averaged 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in his NPB career. Allowing just 0.9 home runs per nine innings, Imanaga has shown the ability to suppress power hitting.

Japanese ace Shota Imanaga is a potential target for the Yankees if a deal for Yamamoto fails.
KYODO

Another intriguing Japanese arm that has drawn less fanfare but could emerge as a hidden gem is 29-year-old Naoyuki Uwasawa. The right-hander was posted in November by his NPB club, the Nippon-Ham Fighters. In 24 starts last season, Uwasawa recorded a 2.96 ERA and 1.135 WHIP across 170 innings pitched, striking out 124 batters. His stinginess with allowing long balls continued, as he gave up just 0.7 home runs per nine innings, aligning closely with his 0.8 career rate. That tendency to limit homers would translate well if Uwasawa ends up signing with the Bronx Bombers and having to call home run-prone Yankee Stadium his home ballpark.

Another potential backup for the Yankees

According to NJ Adavnced Media, Naoyuki Uwasawa is another option who the Yankees can explore. The Nippon-Ham Fighters made 29-year-old right-hander available for MLB teams this offseason, posting him in November. Over 24 starts in the NPB last season, Uwasawa managed impressive numbers – compiling a 2.96 Earned Run Average and 1.135 Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched. He fanned 124 batters over 170 innings of work.

Exhibiting elite control, he allowed just 0.7 home runs per nine innings in 2023 – nearly matching his stingy career rate of 0.8 homers surrendered per nine. That tendency to suppress power hitting would fit nicely if Uwasawa ultimately signs with the New York Yankees. His mastery keeping the ball in the park would translate well to Yankee Stadium, which is notoriously homer-friendly with its short right field porch. The Bronx Bombers could have found a hidden gem if they ink the blossoming Uwasawa.

Japanese ace Shota Imanaga is a potential target for the Yankees if a deal for Yamamoto fails.
KYODO

Meanwhile, the Giants are positioned as potential contenders for NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, particularly if their pursuit of Yamamoto falls through. Snell has a remarkable track record against the Dodgers, boasting a lifetime record of 13-2 and a 2.59 ERA when facing LA. The Angels are also emerging as potential contenders for Snell, benefiting from newfound financial flexibility and a clear need to bolster their rotation. In contrast, the Dodgers are actively pursuing various pitchers but have not shown explicit interest in Snell.

As for Jordan Montgomery, the Rangers remain a viable destination, with negotiations seemingly influenced by the recent $162 million Carlos Rodon-Yankees deal. The Red Sox, known for their interest in a wide range of pitchers, have also entered discussions regarding Montgomery.

A potential strategy for the Mets also involves acquiring Josh Hader, forming what could be one of the most formidable lefty-righty bullpen tandems in baseball history. Mets President David Stearns, having previous ties with Hader during their days with the Brewers, is well-versed in the pitcher’s capabilities.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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