Which teams stand out in the chase for Shōta Imanaga?

The clock is ticking but the Red Sox, Cubs and Angels are still holding in the race.

World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan
World Baseball Classic Championship: United States v Japan / Eric Espada/GettyImages
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Where Might Imanaga Go?

CBS Sports HQ's MLB insider Jim Bowden initially suggested the group of teams vying for Imanaga's services could include the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the San Francisco Giants, and the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees, per reports, ended up unimpressed with Imanaga, worrying about his fly ball potential in the Bronx; they stayed out of deeper negotiations. The other three teams pursued the lefty, but per Jon Heyman, the Giants spent Tuesday "looking elsewhere," just one day after Mark Feinsand had declared them the prohibitive favorites.

This crazy race might be down to the spendthrift Red Sox and Craig Counsell-led Cubs, a team that made an early managerial splash, but hasn't splashed cash this offseason.

 The Yankees have lost significant depth in their rotation, due to their trade with the Padres for Juan Soto, which included Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez, and top prospect Drew Thorpe. Signing another top pitcher may cost even more money or require the Yankees to give up draft picks (Blake Snell, who rejected the qualifying offer). They may also have to trade away even more young talent to acquire a top pitcher like Corbin Burnes or Dylan Cease. Apparently, this has not deterred them, nor did it tip them in Imanaga's direction; they're not interested.

Imanaga and the Angels, Cubs or Red Sox

The Angels, who have a great need for a starter, cannot be disregarded. Despite signing Zach Plesac last week, the Angels' rotation remains thin. The Red Sox are also a potential destination for Imanaga, as he would become their sole left-handed starter after the recent trade of Chris Sale to the Braves and the signing of Lucas Giolito.

On Jan. 9, Jon Heyman of the New York Post stated on Twitter that the Red Sox and Cubs are still very much involved in the bidding for Imanaga, contradicting previous reports about the Giants' position. However, bidding for any free agent is constantly changing. Imanaga has less than 36 hours left to make a decision with a team. This creates an intriguing situation for the Cubs, especially since Craig Breslow, who previously worked in their front office, is now leading the Red Sox' baseball operations. There has been speculation that the Red Sox may need to cut their payroll before making any big moves in free agency, meaning there might be more to an Imanaga move than meets the eye. It wouldn't be surprising that Breslow's current and former teams share the same pitching ethos.

 It has been reported that Imanaga could potentially receive a five-year, $100 million deal, which is likely around the limit of what the Cubs are comfortable offering to a free-agent starting pitcher. It is also possible that the Cubs' current offer is lower than that, which could be why Imanaga is waiting for a higher offer from the Red Sox before making a decision.