The Orioles found their everyday shortstop for the upcoming season … and perhaps beyond.
The team signed veteran infielder Jose Iglesias to a one-year deal reportedly worth $2.5 million with a $3.5 million option in 2021 that includes a $500,000 buyout.
“We are thrilled with the acquisition,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said in a conference call with the Baltimore media. “Bringing in a veteran shortstop, let alone one with a resume of accomplishments that Jose Iglesias brings to us was a major priority for us this offseason.
“We feel in particular his defensive capabilities will bring a tremendous amount of stability to our club. We expect a lot of young pitchers from our minor-league system to be graduating to the major-league club, and having his glove behind them is going to be a huge part of their development.”
To make room for Iglesias on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated right-hander Eric Hanhold for assignment.
Iglesias, 30, appeared in 146 games (136 starts) for the Cincinnati Reds last season. He slashed .288/.318/.407 with a career-high 11 home runs, 62 runs scored, and 59 RBI. He was second on the Reds in hits (145) and games played, and he was the team’s recipient of the 2019 Heart and Hustle Award.
The Havana, Cuba native has a .985 fielding percentage as a shortstop since the 2013 season, which leads all active players. Iglesias has twice led the American League in fielding percentage as a shortstop, in both 2016 (.991) and 2017 (.987) with the Tigers.
Iglesias also provides a proven veteran presence in a young clubhouse, and he’s ready to embrace a leadership role.
“It’s a stage in my career where I’m really going to enjoy it,” Iglesias said on the conference call. “No. 1 because someone did it for me when I was younger, and it’s my time now. I’m really excited for the challenge of making my teammates better. Being a shortstop, being the leader on the field, it’s a big responsibility that I’m really excited to do.”
The move also allows the Orioles to be more flexible with former Rule 5 pick Richie Martin, who appeared in 120 games last season. Martin excelled defensively, but slashed just .208/.260/.322 and could perhaps use some time in the minors to work on his swing.
Elias was non-committal about Martin’s destination, but was confident the addition of Iglesias was going to benefit him because of that potential mentor relationship.
“Last year, when you take a guy straight out of Double-A in the Rule 5 draft and stick him in the American League East, it’s not necessarily the smoothest development curve, and Richie did great,” Elias said. “Kept his head above water. He played great defense for us. He showed us some tools.
“But this will allow him to get back on a natural development track, take some of the pressure off us relying on him to play shortstop and then give him somebody to look up to. … It will probably be a good thing for him overall.”
Iglesias was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox in September 2009 as an international free agent and made his major-league debut two seasons later. He finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013 and was named an All-Star in 2015 with the Detroit Tigers.
Elias is elated Iglesias will make an impact as the Orioles begin phase two of their rebuilding project.
“Just the ability to bring a guy like Jose in here for the next couple of years, we think will be a huge part of our success in executing our rebuilding process, and it’s a big part of our plan,” Elias said. “So, really happy that he’s here, that he’s a part of things. You look at what he’s done over the last several years and he’s among the most steady and accomplished shortstops in Major League Baseball the last few years.”
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