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.
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.
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.