Pittsburgh Pirates: Estimating The Contracts For Top International Free Agents

The Pittsburgh Pirates should be aggressive on the international free agent market, but what could some of the top targets make this off-season?
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against / Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
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Shota Imanaga

The Pirates need starting pitching in the worst way, and one left-handed starter who should be on the Pirates' radar is Shota Imanaga. Imanaga is one of Japan's best starting pitchers, and the veteran is looking to take his talents to the US. 

Imanga has pitched 159.2 innings for the Yokohama Bay Stars this year, working to an outstanding 2.66 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and a huge 7.83 K:BB ratio. Imanaga rocks a 3.8% walk rate but pairs that with a strikeout rate of just under 30% at 29.5%. That has led to such a great K:BB ratio. The only below-average number on his 2023 report card is his 1.02 HR/9, which is still manageable and not bad either.

Imanaga isn't an overpowering force on the mound but sits 92-95 MPH. But it has significant carry through the zone. It gives it the impression of going faster than it is. It was ranked as one of the nastiest fastballs in the WBC this past off-season. But don't sleep on his other offerings. Both his curveball and splitter were considered plus pitches by stuff+.

Some have estimated that Imanaga will make something similar to what Kodai Senga signed for with the NY Mets. Senga signed going into his age-30 campaign, the same age Imanaga will sign for next season. Senga and Imanaga also have comparable stats in Japan. Senga owned a 2.42 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 2.92 K:BB ratio. Senga inked a five-year/$75 million deal, coming to an AAV of $15 million. Yusei Kikuchi, a former left-handed pitching Japanese star, signed for $43 million over three seasons, reaching an AAV of $14.3 million. He also had comparable Japanese numbers with a 2.85 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 2.46 K:BB ratio. With that, I see Imanaga signing something like these two pitchers did. A 4-5 year deal worth $15 million each season seems about right for Imanaga.