The Cincinnati Reds are reportedly talking to free agent shortstop Jose Iglesias about a minor league deal for 2019. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was the first to report this.

This is interesting in a few different ways. First, let’s talk about  Jose Iglesias. Playing for the Detroit Tigers in 2018 he hit .269/.310/.389 in 125 games played. The shortstop isn’t exactly known for his bat. Over the last four seasons he’s topped a .700 OPS once. What he is known for, though, is quality defense at a premium position. Despite not being much of a hitter, last season he was worth 2.2 bWAR or 2.5 fWAR depending on which version of WAR you prefer. That’s a slightly above-average starting caliber shortstop WAR. To land a player like that on a minor league deal would be an absolute steal for the Cincinnati Reds.

The projection systems don’t see his offense improving. They all believe he’s a sub .700 OPS hitter. But it’s never been the bat that was the selling point with Jose Iglesias – though for those of you who like batting average, he has hit .300 or better in two seasons (2013 and 2015). It’s the defense that the systems like, and while it’s likely to take a small step back in 2019 he should still be expected to provide above-average defense.

A back up shortstop for Cincinnati is an interesting spot on the roster and in the organization. Jose Peraza has the starting gig locked down. On the 40-man roster there are two guys who could ideally be the backup. First would be Alex Blandino. But he’s recovering from ACL surgery after tearing up his knee last July. He may or may not be ready to begin the season. And then there’s Blake Trahan. He’s known to be a quality defender at shortstop. But over the last two seasons in Double-A and Triple-A he’s also slugged under .300.

Alex Blandino can cover you as a backup shortstop. But defensively he’s a bit stretched at the position. His arm works there quite well. But his range isn’t great. With positioning, it could help. But still, he’s going to stand out as a below-average defender on an every day basis if he needs to step in there. For Blake Trahan, the defense would be fine, but his bat projects to be rather similar to a good hitting pitcher (ZiPS projects him as a .207/.277/.274 hitter for 2019). That’s not what you want to step in on a daily basis if needed, either.

In Triple-A there’s another option. The Reds signed Christian Colon to a minor league deal in the offseason. He’s a shortstop. He’s also 30-years-old. ZiPS projects him to be a .249/.322/.331 hitter on the season. But he’s also known for his glove. He very well could be the best option of the three backup options, at least when it comes to the need for someone to step in for an every day need at the position.

Jose Iglesias would be an upgrade to all three of those options. He’s the better defender. And between Trahan and Colon, he’s also the better hitter. Given his past experience in the Major Leagues he likely would have an opt-out date in his minor league contract where the team would have to let him know before spring training is over if he’s going to make the team or not. That way if he had other offers out there he could choose to become a free agent and take them.

The final question here would be about how the bench would be set up. The Reds have talked about potentially having a 13-man pitching staff. That would make it incredibly tough for Cincinnati. There simply wouldn’t be room on the roster for a handful of guys. That would leave four men on the bench. One of them would be the backup catcher. That would leave three spots for Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler, Derek Dietrich, Jose Iglesias, Alex Blandino, Connor Joe, Phillip Ervin, Kyle Farmer, and potentially Nick Senzel (depending on how the center field situation plays out). More and more this seems like a situation where a 12-man pitching staff almost has to be done.

16 Responses

  1. Eddiek957

    The last shortstop we got from Detroit worked out nicely for the Reds. My hope is Mr Bell can figure out a 12 man pitching staff so we can keep a glove first infielder.

  2. CFD3000

    How much positional flexibility does Iglesias provide? I disagree with Klugo that Blandino is not a serious weapon off the bench. If he’s healthy and covers more positions than Iglesias I’d prefer Blandino, especially if the Reds have a 13 man pitching staff. The only scenarios where I’d prefer Iglesias involve either Peraza or Blandino being hurt.

    Klugo I’ll agree with you on Trahan – I hope he doesn’t spend any significant time in Cincinnati in 2019.

    • John Ramosq

      What anyone has forgotten to mention is that aside from a great glove Jose is one of the toughest player to
      Strikeout look it up
      Coach Ramos

  3. Phil

    I’m struggling to see how Kemp fits on this roster.
    Assuming starting 8 is something like:
    C – Barnhart
    1B – Votto
    2B – Scooter
    SS – Peraza
    3B – Suarez
    LF – Winker
    CF – Senzel
    RF – Puig

    Bench options are:
    2nd Catcher – Casali
    4th outfielder – Schebler (has been above average vs left and right-handed pitching and can back up all 3 outfield spots)
    Util – Dietrich (above average vs right-handed pitching, just below average vs lefties can back up 3B, 2B, 1B and LF)
    Util – Connor Joe (right handed bat with some power. can back up LF, RF, 3B and 1B while also being emergency 3rd catcher)
    Util – Jose Iglesias or Alex Blandino (a true backup SS)

    Kemp would likely be the best right-handed bat of the group but it would seem to limit the roster flexibility to have a bench player who can only pinch hit or play LF.

  4. davy13

    As per the previous RLN post, if Lorenzen works out as a backup CF/bench hitter, then the team could carry the 13 pitchers with ML as an extra bench batter. Theoretically.

    Practically, it seems to me that going with 13 pitchers dilutes the competition a bit. Just 12 spots would incentivize the pitchers in competition to make they gain that last spot. Keep that extra bat.

  5. Chris

    Just curious, how is this a failure of the FA system? If he is signed to a mILB contract, that means NO other team wanted to sign him on an MLB contract at even a million or two. So I’m not seeing anything related to a failed system. I’m seeing basic supply and demand with the addition of cost ratios in play. In others words, like everyone always says, Baseball is a business. For example, if a veteran is worth 2.2 war at say 3 – 5 mil, and a prospect is estimated to be worth 1.8 to 2.0 war at league minimum, basic business sense says you go with the prospect. Not seeing the problem.

    • Chris

      Matt, if that’s true, then why isn’t he getting a 2 mil MLB contract from someone? And by the way, his 2 war player status is due to his defense. Many teams don’t really need that specifically, and many don’t really buy into those defensive metrics for war. I guess my point is this, at the level he is, I’d rather spend the mlb minimum versus a couple of million. And by the way, I want to win. 🙂
      I just don’t buy into this new found mentality that says there is a problem in MLB because guys aren’t getting signed to millions of dollars.

  6. Choo Choo Coleman

    It would be a great sign. And, it would be a great help to this team that is woeful on defense in the middle INF. Gives flexibility and insurance in case of injury. Reds should desperately look to move Gennett before the season. Opens 2B up for Senzel. Kemp sticks with this team. Has a great bat. And, gives someone in the clubhouse to lean on other than Votto, who appears to be very internal oriented. Bench should be 5 players — which gives the manager a lot more flexibility. Especially in the early part of the season, when there are more “off days.” Casilli will be C, if healthy. Dietrich will make this team and has a huge LH bat. Winker-Kemp or Schebler on bench. Iglesias would be a huge help, if Reds can sign. Huge.

    • Drrobo

      Agree with most of what you say except that Red’s should not deal anyone out of “desperation”. Trahan and/or Blandino on opening day roster not a good sign as I don’t want to see either one at plate as PH. I for one would like to see how the veteran squad performs. Hope Iglesias becomes a reality and if Lorenzan is used both ways makes Ervin a Bat if he has a chance anyway. Senzel’s presence gives even more eliminates the need for a fifth outfielder be The Bats appear to be loaded. Reds are doing good job of putting together an excellent roster.

  7. AllTheHype

    Nice analysis. I’m pretty shocked Iglesias may have to settle for a minor league deal. Actually I wouldn’t mind the Reds give him a ML deal. The Reds defense is the weakness. He will get a lot of play in late innings somewhere in the middle infield, adn situational start here and there. Every tight lead in the 8th and he should be in.

  8. Dale Robertson

    If either Blandino or Trahan on roster opening day, the Red’s will not be relevant. Nothing personal but do you want either in lineup in case of injury or to give someone a day off? Do either present a solid pinch hitting option? Do either have the experience to be in a pennant race? I can’t see a 13 man pitching staff unless Lorenzan is seriously being considered as a two-way player (I hope he is) to help off the bench. The Reds should not deal anyone in desperation as we know how that works out. Senzel has to be in the lineup somewhere (we think). The outfield is deep but those things have a way of working their way out. Casali, Iglesias, Dietrich, extra outfielder(s) makes a bench not seen on many teams. The Bats should be loaded.

    • Dale Robertson

      No, he was making strides and I appreciate the effort. I’m thinking about winning and he lost a lot of last year. IMO comparing him to either Dietrich or Iglesias, I’ll take either one before him based upon experience and pinch hitting. Besides, it is questionable as to whether he will be ready.

  9. Drrobo

    I left out Joe and/or Farmer as an option instead of two extra outfielder. Flexibility of those two plus Dietrich may make it very difficult for Ervin. Casali coming off surgery and while not anticipated could be a factor.

  10. Jbrat22

    I agree. Teams are opting to go with young guys that are cheaper and pre-arb instead of signing an averagish veteran. Iglesias would probably be a better option for those teams, but they would rather pay less money for a guy that’s marginally worse because they know they won’t be in contention.

    The Reds are exploiting this inefficiency in the market in order to beef up their depth at a relatively low price. Guys like Iglesias and Deitrich are prime examples of players that would provide marginal improvements to teams over guys making ML-minimum, but teams that probably won’t contend are choosing to save those couple million dollars and roll with the youngsters