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Orioles add shortstop José Iglesias on one-year deal to fill infield gap

The Orioles’ took a step toward addressing their middle infield issues Monday, agreeing to a contract with free-agent shortstop José Iglesias. The one-year deal likely will install him as their starter at the position, according to an industry source.

The deal, first reported by MLB.com, is worth $2.5 million in 2020 with a $500,000 buyout if the Orioles don’t exercise a club option worth $3.5 million, giving the deal a total value of $6 million.

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Iglesias, who turned 30 on Sunday, spent 2019 with the Cincinnati Reds but played most of his career with the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. A well-regarded star out of Cuba, Iglesias debuted with Boston in 2011 at age 21 but was part of a three-way trade with the Tigers that netted the Red Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy in 2013.

Even when he signed, Iglesias had a reputation as a defensive standout, and that has continued in the majors. He’s continued to develop offensively, and hit .288/.318/.407 with a career-high 11 home runs last year for the Reds. That represented his best offensive season since Iglesias was an All-Star with the Tigers in 2015.

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Because of his defense at shortstop, Iglesias has been worth at least one win above replacement (WAR) every year since 2013, according to FanGraphs, and he’s been a positively rated defender analytically in each of those seasons as well.

Iglesias fills a hole in the infield left by last month’s trade of Jonathan Villar, who was the Orioles’ primary shortstop but was dealt to the Miami Marlins for a low-level pitching prospect so the Orioles could avoid paying an estimated $10.4 million in salary in 2019.

Last year’s Rule 5 draft pick, Richie Martin, spent all of 2019 in the majors but could get further refining at Triple-A Norfolk in 2020. Otherwise, the Orioles signed infielder Dilson Herrera to a minor league contract to supplement a group of infielders that includes Hanser Alberto, Stevie Wilkerson and Pat Valaika entering spring training.

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