Why weren’t Astros in on Shota Imanaga after price was revealed in Cubs deal?

What are the Astros waiting for this offseason

Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan starting pitcher Shota Imanaga (21) pitches against the USA
Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan starting pitcher Shota Imanaga (21) pitches against the USA / Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
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Houston Astros general manager Dana Brown is fond of saying that if the deal is right for the right player, the Astros could be persuaded make a move big or small. He said it before the trade deadline last year and ultimately pulled the trigger on the Justin Verlander trade, but thus far he has yet to find a deal to his liking this offseason.

The free agent and trade markets have continued to churn slowly in the wake of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto signing, but there have been plenty of opportunities that the Astros have let pass by. One of the more egregious ones happened just last night when it was reported that the Cubs were set to sign Japanese pitcher Shota Imanaga to a really strange and surprisingly cheap contract.

It sure looks like the Astros should have pushed to sign Imanaga at that price

The exact terms of Imanaga's deal aren't known yet as the deal isn't finalized. However, what is clear is that he is apparently signing for way less than what many thought he would and at terms that the Astros should have absolutely jumped all over. Imanaga doesn't have Yamamoto's upside, but he was still one of the best performing pitchers over in Japan, is a lefty, and has a well-commanded arsenal of pitches to choose from. At $15 million a year almost regardless of the exact incentives in play, that is a steal in this market for a guy that should at least be a solid middle of the rotation starter.

There is a wrinkle to this story, however. This morning, national baseball reporter Jon Heyman revealed during a radio interview that at least one team was willing to guarantee Imanaga more than double what it looks like he is going to be guaranteed from the Cubs in his deal and he signed in Chicago anyways.

Maybe Imanaga just really wanted to play for the Cubs or maybe he thought they were the best team to make him an offer he could live with. Whatever the case may be, it is hard to imagine that if the Astros, who have one of the best rosters in the league going into next season, offered similar very reasonable terms to Imanaga, that he would have passed up that opportunity to play in Chicago unless he has some extreme Cubs love in his heart.

We'll know more in the coming days as to what offers were on the table and at least some of the other teams seriously involved. If the Astros did indeed check in on Imanaga and it didn't work out, so be it. If the Astros just didn't follow through and were unwilling to even get close to his rumored deal, this offseason could be painful especially with some of the real needs the Astros have going into 2024.

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