The Orioles filled one box on their to-do list yesterday when they agreed on a contract with free agent shortstop José Iglesias. The former Red Sox, Tiger and Red got a one-year deal for $3 million with a club option for 2021 at $3 million, although the deal has not yet been officially announced by the team.
The deal provides the club a plus defender at short and you have to like the terms. It’s a lower-dollar deal but also provides shortstop protection for two seasons if they want to bring him back and it’s the club’s choice.
Since 2016, Iglesias posted 1.1, 1.1, 0.9 and a career-best 1.4 defensive Wins Above Replacement per Baseball-Reference.com. In FanGraphs.com’s defensive stats, he ranked seventh among all qualifying major league shortstops in their overall defensive rating at the position for 2019 and he rated ninth in Defensive Runs Saved. Since 2015, Iglesias leads all major league shortstops in fielding percentage at .985.
By the way, in FanGraphs’ team defensive rankings for shortstop in 2019, the Reds rated fifth and the Orioles were at No. 24. They upgraded with the glove.
Iglesias, 30, played parts of three seasons with Boston, was with Detroit for parts of six years and was a Red in 2019. Last season, in a career-high 146 games and 530 plate appearances, he hit .288/.318/.407 with a .724 OPS.
Like Hanser Alberto, he doesn’t walk or strike out much. In fact, among the 11 players for the 2019 Orioles with 300 or more plate appearances, Iglesias’ 2019 walk rate of 3.8 would better only Alberto at 2.9. And his strikeout rate of 13.2 would be bettered by only Alberto at 9.1.
Iglesias is not noted for his offense, but he did hit .322 on the road in 2019, fifth-best in the National League. In August, he hit .359, the fifth-best in the NL, which included a 14-game hitting streak. In the first inning, he led the NL in batting average (.433) while ranking second in both on-base percentage (.452) and slugging percentage (.733).
Iglesias was the Reds’ recipient of the 2019 Heart and Hustle Award, given to each team’s player who best embodies the passion, values, spirit and traditions of the game.
Last year, just two Orioles made starts at shortstop. Richie Martin made 90, as the club went 31-59 (.344). Jonathan Villar made 72 starts ,as the Orioles went 22-50 (.306).
Iglesias’ addition likely sends Martin to Triple-A to begin the year. He can work on his bat and get everyday reps there. If a team is in need of a plus defender at short in the second half, the O’s could look to move Iglesias at the trade deadline next season.
Payroll notes: We can begin to make a good guess at the Orioles’ 2020 opening day payroll at this point. We can take the few players locked into 2020 salaries and add to that the projected salaries of the four Orioles eligible for arbitration: Trey Mancini, Mychal Givens, Alberto and Miguel Castro.
Chris Davis is listed at just over $21 million for next season. That figure takes into account the present day value of the deal he signed in January 2016. Some websites calculate Davis at $23 million per year going by average annual value of his deal and dividing $161 million by seven seasons.
For this exercise, we’ll use $21 million for Davis.
$21M - Davis
$14M - Alex Cobb
$5.7M - projection for Mancini
$3.2M - projection for Givens
$3M - Iglesias guarantee for next season
$1.9M - projection for Alberto
$1.2M - projection for Castro
$915,000 - Richard Bleier
$800,000 - Kohl Stewart (if on MLB roster)
That adds up to $51.715 million for those nine players. Most of the rest of the roster should be making at or close to the major league minimum although not every player will fit in that category. Some will certainly make more. But the minimum for next season is $563,500 and the remaining 17 players (on a 26-man roster) will earn at least a combined $9.58 million.
The two totals for 26 players is around $61.3 million. It’s safe to project it will be higher, but that’s probably the minimum figure it could be with where the payroll stands today.