HomeSportsZaidi explains Giants' hesitation to pursue Imanaga in free agency

Zaidi explains Giants’ hesitation to pursue Imanaga in free agency

Zaidi explains Giants’ hesitation to pursue Imanaga in free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Two months into the 2024 MLB season, the Giants might be kidding themselves for not putting in the effort to sign a star Japanese player this offseason.

No, not Shohei Ohtani nor Yoshinobu Yamamoto. But hey, if the shoe fits…

San Francisco gave a tough chase to Ohtani and Yamamoto this winter, but came up empty in both sweepstakes after the two players signed with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. However, there was a third Japanese star player available that teams like the Giants might regret not pursuing extensively.

San Francisco was one of seven teams, including the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers, to express interest in free-agent left-handed pitcher Shota Imanaga this season, The Athletic reported in a news release . recent cover story on the pitcher, citing sources familiar with the negotiations.

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San Francisco was initially reported to have some interest in Imanaga before he signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the Cubs, but it appears the Giants never offered the 30-year-old a contract.

The Athletic spoke with Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and other MLB executives, who explained why San Francisco was hesitant on Imanaga after completing an internal review of the unproven free agent.

“Our pitch-grade models really liked him,” Zaidi said. “They had plus grades on all three of his pitches: fastball, split and breakball. But our scouting reports weren’t that strong, and that’s understandable because what makes his pitches so effective isn’t apparent to the naked eye. When filling the competitive gap when scouting international professionals, it’s always easier to rely on louder tools than on subtler skills, like having pitches with unique movement patterns.

“The availability of pitch data from the Pacific Rim has made these valuations more reliable in theory, but there’s still a leap to be made if you can’t hang your hat at high speed. I imagine there are scouts around the game who saw him as a high-end starter in the major leagues, but I suspect the teams that scored highest on him placed the greatest value on their pitch model ratings.

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In 10 starts with the Cubs this season, Imanaga has a 5-1 record with a microscopic ERA of 1.86 in 58 innings, with 59 strikeouts and 10 walks.

While it’s still early, Imanaga is already one of the best pitchers in baseball and is among the favorites to win the NL Cy Young award this season, proving teams like the Giants wrong for not pursuing him heavily in free agency.

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