Shota Imanaga of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars held a press conference at Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, on March 13 (ET) to discuss his background and how he came to challenge the major leagues through the posting system.
Imanaga is a “left-handed ace” representing Nippon Professional Baseball and began his professional career in 2015 when he was selected by the Yokohama DeNA in the first round of the rookie draft. Throughout his professional career, Imanaga has experienced many twists and turns, but until this year, he has appeared in 165 games (13 complete games) over eight seasons, compiling a record of 64-50-4 with a 3.18 ERA.토토사이트
Imanaga is also well known to fans, especially in South Korea. In a World Baseball Classic (WBC) Group B matchup against South Korea in March, he took the mound behind Darvish Yu (San Diego Padres) and impressed with a fastball that topped out at 155 mph, allowing one run on three hits with three strikeouts and no walks over three innings.
Imanaga didn’t have a perfect game as he gave up a solo home run to Gun-woo Park (NC Dinos), but with starter Darvish shaky, Imanaga stepped up to the plate and did his job perfectly, going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three games, including two innings of one-run ball in the final against the United States, to help Team Japan win the title
Given his impressive performance at the WBC, Imanaga seemed like a lock to make it to the major leagues after this season. However, Imanaga’s position was very ambiguous. After his team was eliminated in the first round of the Central League Climax Series, Imanaga told reporters, “I can’t talk about my future because it’s not set in stone. I don’t know with the way I feel right now. I haven’t looked at anything,” he said.
At the time, the disappointment of being eliminated from the postseason seemed to have an impact, but Imanaga’s stance hasn’t changed much since then. “It’s not just about what I want to do, it’s also about whether there’s a demand for it. You can’t get too emotional about it. I need to talk to people a little more calmly,” he said.
Imanaga sought advice from his seniors, including Yoshihisa Hirano (Orix Buffaloes) and Hirokazu Sawamura (Chiba Lotte Marines), who had played in the major leagues until recently, and made the final decision to enter the major leagues through the posting system on the 11th, and held a press conference at Yokohama Stadium on the 13th.
According to multiple local Japanese media outlets, including Daily Sports, Imanaga said, “First, every time I experience the Japanese national team, I hear the song of going to the major leagues. The second is the mindset. I’m a person who cares about what other people think of me, and this time, I was also told negative things like, ‘You don’t belong in the major leagues’. I want to change that, and at the age of 30, the time is right,” he said of his decision to play in the big leagues.
Imanaga took the opportunity to express his gratitude to the Yokohama DeNA team. The organization has long been a strong supporter of Imanaga’s major league career. In Japan, several clubs, including the SoftBank Hawks and Yomiuri Giants, have not allowed their players to reach the big leagues through the posting system. In particular, Senga Kodai (New York Mets), who had a successful “soft landing,” expressed his desire to play in the major leagues on several occasions, but his move to the big leagues was delayed by his former club, SoftBank.
Just this offseason, Takahashi Kona, the “ace” of the Seibu Lions, was denied a move to the big leagues due to team opposition. The team’s finances are strong enough that Seibu doesn’t have to pay posting fees, and the team finished fifth in the Pacific League this year. However, Yokohama DeNA has been in talks with Imanaga since 2019, and team general manager Hagihara made it clear that he would actively discourage Imanaga if he expressed a desire to stay in Japan.
In response, Imanaga said, “I’ve been asked about my dream of playing in the major leagues by teams other than my own. I want to say thank you so much for pushing me. When you gave me permission to post, I was told, ‘Please come back,’ but now I’m going to build a career and become a player who can say that first.”
According to the Boston Globe and Major League Trade Rumors (MLBTR), Imanaga will receive a five-year, $85 million contract, while The Athletic will receive a four-year, $52 million contract. “I don’t have a favorite team, but I would love to have a team that believes in my potential and sees my potential as unlimited,” Imanaga said. “I want a lot of kids who want to play in the major leagues to come to the ballpark wearing my jersey, and I want to be that player.”