José Iglesias didn’t expect his phone to ring Wednesday night with news that would shake up the professional side of his life and spark emotions on the personal side. He didn’t expect to hear from Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias or to be told that he was traded again.
He fell in love with the Orioles and felt the sting of a sudden breakup.
Elias informed Iglesias that the veteran shortstop was going to the Angels in exchange for minor league pitchers Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto. One season in Baltimore and Iglesias was headed to his fourth team since 2018.
The trade surprised Iglesias after the Orioles picked up his $3.5 million option and lauded his work at the plate and in the field and his leadership in a young clubhouse.
“Yes, I was,” he said this morning. “I was very comfortable, I loved the group and I was hoping to stay because I really, really, really get along and feel very comfortable. But at the same time Mike explained it is a business. There are business decisions behind every decision in the game today and I totally understand that and respect it.
“I’m extremely happy that someone else wanted my services and wanted me to be part of a winning culture, so I’ve got to turn the page and now help the Anaheim Angels.”
The West Coast will be home to Iglesias for the first time after he arrived in the majors with the Red Sox. He also played for the Tigers and Reds before the Orioles signed him as a free agent in the winter of 2019.
What does he expect it to be like?
“Warmer, I guess,” he said with a laugh.
“I don’t know. We’ll see. We can talk about it after the season, but it will be different. But I hear the weather is great there. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Angels finished in fourth place in the American League West, settling below .500 for the fifth year in a row, but are trying to contend in 2021. They acquired Iglesias to replace Andrelton Simmons, also an exceptional defender. They aren’t in rebuild mode with a roster that includes Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton and their willingness to spend in free agency.
“I think the ultimate goal for every baseball player is play the game to win and compete,” Iglesias said. “I think that’s the goal for every team and for every organization that exists. The only reason we play this game is to win, that will bring the best out of us as players and I’m extremely happy for the opportunity the Angels bring to me and to compete and help them win games.”
Iglesias brings a desire to lead that won’t be stifled simply because he’s leaving the Orioles.
“I want to win,” he said. “I’m not going to step on Mikey and Pujols and Rendon and Upton and all those guys’ toes at all. I’m here to help and to communicate with them what needs to be done, and as a team we’ll make decisions and whatever is best to win a game. We’ll communicate accordingly to make the organization and the team better on a daily basis. But you have to think that way.
“You have to think, not just you but each and every one on any team should be thinking as a leader and lead by example, because that will lead you toward the right way.”
Iglesias didn’t do much wrong with the Orioles beyond injuries that were out of his control. He batted .373/.400/.556 with 17 doubles, three home runs and 24 RBIs in 39 games, his production coming unexpectedly from the second and third spots in the order. He was solid-to-spectacular in the field depending on the condition of his left quadriceps muscle. And he embraced the opportunity to work with his young teammates, whether to provide tips on playing or navigating through a major league season battered by the coronavirus pandemic
What will he remember most about his one season with the Orioles?
“Oh man, what can I say?” he replied. “I was sad. I had a great time in Cincinnati. I got an opportunity to play with great human beings and outstanding players and a good staff. But Baltimore was special for me.
“My chemistry and my communication with those young players was unique and I used that on the field daily, even to play through injuries, just because of the love and the respect that I have for all those guys and the whole staff and the organization. So it was painful for me to hear that I got traded, but on the other hand, like I said, I’ve got to be able to turn the page and understand the business side of it. I’m excited for the opportunity that Anaheim is bringing to me.”