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If New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers fail to land Yoshinobu Yamamoto a unique backup plan has emerged

If teams like the New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers fail in their pursuit of young Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, it seems there is an interesting backup option from the Land of the Rising Sun that will soon become available.

The Mets and Dodgers had very different but similar disappointing seasons in 2023. New York had the biggest payroll in MLB this season but had such a horrid start to the year that they ended up being sellers before the trade deadline. On the other hand, the Dodgers won 100 games and another division title but were ousted quickly in the postseason. Both did not get close to their ultimate goals.

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Something else the two wealthy clubs have in common this offseason is that both are in serious need of an upgrade to the starting rotation. The Mets need to replace aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer after trading both in July, while the Dodgers need to find a new leader for the staff and move away from relying so heavily on team great Clayton Kershaw.

That is why both teams have been linked to Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto in recent weeks. Besides Blake Snell, he is seen as the best pitcher on this year’s market and has the upside of being only 25 years old. However, only one team can sign him and there are many organizations that have him as a primary target next month.

For the teams that don’t land him, there is another talented Japanese pitcher who will be available soon and could be had at a more affordable rate than the nearly $200 million Yamamoto is expected to get.

Shota Imanaga could be a free-agency backup plan for New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers

new york mets, los angeles dodgers
Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, veteran MLB insider Mark Feinsand reported that “Shota Imanaga, who started the WBC championship game for Japan, is expected to be posted between now and Monday. That would put his timeline to sign roughly a week behind Yoshinobu Yamamoto.”

In a follow-up post on X, Feinsand suggested that the cost to land Imanaga would be similar to the five years and $75 million Kodai Senga got from the New York Mets this time last year.

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Imanaga is an eight-year veteran of the Nippon Professional Baseball League and has played for the Yokohama Bay Stars for his entire career. He has a career record of 74-55, a 2.96 ERA, and 1.076 WHIP, with 1,183 strikeouts in 1,129.2 innings. They are stats a few ticks behind what Senga had during his career and the Mets pitcher was a breakout star for the team in 2023.

He pitched three times during this year’s World Baseball Classic and tallied one win, a 3.00 ERA, and 1.17 WHIP with seven strikeouts in six innings.

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