- No longer has the most complicated contract in baseball, as he signed a fixed 3 year, $24.125 million deal this winter that buys out his arbitration years (and voids his previous contract)
- No longer projects to be the only Iglesias on the Cincinnati Reds roster
- No longer the team’s closer, in theory, if manager David Bell’s sophisticated new bullpen mantra is to be believed
- Todavia va a cerrar las puertas en las situaciones mas dificiles, pero estas no van a estar solamente en las ultimas entradas
- Born January 4, 1990, in Isla de Juventud, Cuba
- Signed by the Cincinnati Reds on June 27, 2014
- Debuted on April 12, 2015
- Signed 3 year, $24.125 million contract with Cincinnati Reds on November 21, 2018
Prior to the start of the 2018 season, Raisel Iglesias had allowed just 12 dingers in his previous 159.1 IP. That covered his final start of the 2015 season as well as a two-year window in which he pitched on Opening Day, experienced enough arm fatigue to move full-time to the bullpen, took over as the team’s closer, and pitched to a dominant 175 ERA+. This, mind you, while the Reds pitching staff as a whole was largely abysmal, leaving Igloo as the lone true dependable arm on which they could continually lean.
A rudimentary glance at the back of his baseball card will show that his 2018 season actuall featured an improvement in his ERA, as he posted a career-best 2.38 last year in 72 IP. That was all well and good, to be sure. What was troubling, though, was the 12 dingers he allowed last year alone, which was equal to the total he’d allowed in the previous two years combined. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find that featured a spike to a career-worst 18.8% HR/FB rate, up tremendously from the 8.3% mark from 2017. That also coincided with a drop of some 4% on his groundball rate as well as a significant 10.6% rise in his hard-hit rate, all of which makes you wonder if something was wrong with him at some juncture.
Further digging does show his average fastball velocity was down 1.2 mph, so perhaps there really was something going on. To this juncture, we don’t really have anything to suggest that was the case, so we’re just going to assume he’ll be entering the 2019 season as the multi-angle slingshotting dynamo that he always has been, even despite a bit of a blip in his excellence last season. Considering his slider and change were still elite level pitches last year and his change in arm-angle allows him to effectively have three different fastballs, my best bet is that he’ll find a way to rediscover its ability to blow by the opposition - even if those projections listed above seem to completely disagree.
The question, though, is exactly when he’ll be tasked with doing so.
Manager David Bell has hinted that Iglesias will be used in the most important, highest-leverage situations this year, which will somewhat remove him from what had largely become a 9th inning role as closer - one that did, on occasion, include the 8th inning in 2-inning save situations. That could mean coming in to face the heart of the opponent’s batting order when they’re due up in the 7th or 8th inning of a 1-run game, since him blowing through that portion of the order could mean the rest of the bullpen could lock things down against the lesser hitters in the other dugout.
That seemed to even be part of the reason the Reds opted to lock in his salaries for what could have been arbitration years in 2019, 2020, and 2021, since the traditional ‘saves’ stat is one that primarily fuels arbitration raises - his modified role might include more important outs along with fewer saves, and that could’ve created a potential monetary spat down the line if not handled delicately. Now, Iglesias has been assured he’s the top dog in the bullpen and will be paid as such, even if he’s in a role similar to that of, say, Andrew Miller in recent years than simply recording the final out of games.
Considering how much better the Reds bullpen was last year once David Hernandez returned healthy and the likes of Yovani Gallardo, Tanner Rainey, and Zach Weiss were jettisoned, and considering they all return with a cadre of potential additions thanks to the newfound depth in the rotation, there’s a very real chance the Reds bullpen becomes a distinct strength in 2019. Iglesias will be the most heavily relied upon arm down there, as well he should given the talent, repertoire, and deception he possesses in that whip of a right arm. That might not dovetail with him climbing rapidly up from 12th on the Reds all-time saves list, but it sure should go hand in hand with him making some of the biggest hitters in baseball make some awkward, funky looking swings for the next few seasons.