The Cincinnati Reds added to their bench again on Saturday, announcing the signing of former Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. The deal is worth $2.5 million if Iglesias makes the team, with an additional $1 million in incentives.
Iglesias, 29, is coming off the best season of his seven-year major league career. He hit .269/.310/.389 with the Tigers, good for a 90 wRC+, and stole 15 bases in 21 attempts. Where Iglesias shines, however, is on the defensive side. According to Fangraphs, only three shortstops — Andrelton Simmons, Francisco Lindor and Marcus Semien — generated more value with their fielding in 2018 than Iglesias, and only Simmons, Lindor and Brandon Crawford compiled more defensive value over the past four seasons.
For the Reds, this move seems like an obvious positive. Barring injury, Iglesias won’t be asked to start, as manager David Bell reiterated over the weekend that Jose Peraza will remain the team’s No. 1 shortstop, while Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett’s roles at third and second base go without saying.
Nevertheless, the signing does fill a hole for Cincinnati, who until this point did not have an obvious option to play shortstop when Peraza is on the bench. The experiment to give chances to Nick Senzel was abandoned early last season, and Senzel is now being given every opportunity to earn the starting center fielder’s spot. Newly signed utility player Derek Dietrich has never played shortstop at the big league level, and Alex Blandino’s health seems to still be a real concern after the former first round pick tore his MCL and ACL last season. The next available shortstop on the depth chart was likely to be Blake Trahan, a weak-hitting 25-year-old who, at this point, doesn’t seem all that worthy of serious playing time.
Iglesias, then, joins the roster as a highly capable backup to Peraza — not to mention Suarez and Gennett — who can flash near-gold-glove-worthy defense while putting together the same wRC+ in 2018 as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ender Inciarte.
What’s admittedly a bit disheartening from a baseball perspective is that the Reds were even able to make this deal to begin with. Iglesias would be an immediate upgrade over probably a third of baseball’s starting shortstops, including teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, who should ostensibly be trying to compete in 2019. You don’t need me to tell you the fact that a couple of good teams and a whole slew of bad ones with holes at shortstop thought it better to sit tight than offer even $3 million guaranteed to a defensive wizard coming off one of his best offensive seasons is a sad thought, and you’d be well within reason to say, “Good for the Reds for capitalizing.” I just can’t help but be reminded of how bleak this all is.