While there has been no announcement or official affirmation, it seems clear that Jose Iglesias is now the everyday shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds.

Prior to the season, Jose Peraza was expected to be the starting shortstop, but about a week before the regular season started, second baseman Scooter Gennett suffered a severely pulled groin muscle. Manager David Bell told Peraza he’d be moving to second base, with Iglesias filling in at shortstop.

Jose Iglesias hitting slightly above career norms

In the first 41 regular season games, Iglesias demonstrated that he has an outstanding glove at the shortstop position, and that he has an above-average bat for a shortstop. Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Cubs, Iglesias was hitting at .288/.326/.408/.734, with an OPS+ of 92. Those numbers are better than his career numbers of .271/.315/.366/.681 and OPS+ of 84.

Prior to Tuesday, he’d made one error in 177 total chances. His range factor (RF) per game ((putouts + assists) divided by games played) was listed as 3.14, about in the middle of the pack of shortstops, according to MLB.com statistics. That number is down considerably from an average of nearly 4.0 in his previous four seasons as Detroit’s everyday shortstop, though his errors committed during those four seasons were only 11, 4, 5 and 8.

Those defensive metrics were a bit of a surprise. One of the premises of this article was that Iglesias was hitting better than his career averages, but I did not expect to find that his defensive metrics were down compared to his career numbers. Perhaps part of the reason for the low RF is that for the first couple of weeks of the season, Iglesias appeared frequently as a late-game defensive replacement and pinch-hitter. Those games count the same in the RF per game computation as games in which he played all nine innings at shortstop. Baseball-reference.com says Iglesias ranks 130th all-time in RF per nine innings at shortstop with 4.177. (Number one all-time is former San Diego Padre Bill Almon at 5.270. Dave Concepcion ranks 14th all-time at 4.979.)

All of that being said, the eye test as administered by this observer indicates that Iglesias just may be the guy this team needs at shortstop for the next few years. At this point in time, I have the same feeling when a ball is hit in Iglesias’ direction as I did when a ball was hit toward Brandon Phillips – that’s going to be an out.

The question then becomes, should the Reds offer Iglesias a contract extension before he becomes one of the team’s many free agents at the end of this season?

Before the regular season started, there was much talk here at Redleg Nation about which of the many pending free agents should receive contract extension offers and which should not. With so many newcomers on that list, it seemed prudent to see at least a couple of months worth of performance before even thinking about extensions. (That’s my personal opinion. Neither Dick Williams nor Nick Krall has asked, however.)

Iglesias is money with the glove

It’s become clear over 41 games that Iglesias is the guy on this team that you want the ball hit to when you absolutely need to get an out. He is slick fielding and makes quick, accurate throws with almost no bobbles. (Note: This was written prior to the first two games of the Cubs series, in which Iglesias made two errors — but also had some big hits.) The two-month look, in his case, would be to see how much of a fluke, if at all, his offensive (and, after the last two games, the defensive) performance has been. At this point, the only change that would make this observer believe a contract extension is not a good idea is if Iglesias were to go into a Peraza-like batting slump. An OPS+ of 92 is below average, but the prowess at perhaps the most important defensive position on the field more than makes up for it. Iglesias was a .300-plus hitter in both 2013 and 2015, with OPS+ marks of 101 and 99, so he does have that history. His hitting has slumped somewhat since then, so let’s take a few more weeks to see how the bat productivity holds up.

Another factor in why a contract extension for Iglesias makes sense is the lack of better options. I had high hopes that Peraza would continue to establish himself as an everyday player after ranking fourth in the National League in hits in 2018. There is now considerable doubt as to whether that will happen. Plus, there are no shortstops in the farm system that appear to be ready to become major league starters. Through Monday’s action, Cuban signee Alfredo Rodriguez was off to a quick start offensively at Class AA Chattanooga, hitting .314/.363/.371/.734. But this is the first time in his professional minor league career that he has shown any ability to swing the bat consistently. Hopefully it continues, and if it does, he reportedly has a fantastic glove. But he’s not on the verge of making the majors until he proves he can hit for more than 31 games.

Fellow shortstop prospect Jose Israel Garcia, also a Cuban signee, is off to a slow start at Class A Daytona. Based on what we know now, both Rodriguez and Garcia are at least a couple of years away from consideration for a big-league role. Neither is a can’t-miss prospect, so there’s a decent chance that neither of them will develop into a major-league caliber starting shortstop. Not to be pessimistic, but that’s the truth.

I’ll leave the topic of what a new contract for Iglesias should look like to my Redleg Nation colleague Jordan Barhorst, who may wish to review this topic in his ongoing Contracts for the Reds New Core series. But the belief of this observer is that, barring an offensive collapse by Iglesias in the coming weeks, the Reds front office should seriously consider opening negotiations with his representatives in an attempt to keep him on the team beyond 2019.

What do you think?

Should Iglesias be signed for at least a couple more seasons? If not, why not? Let us know your thoughts below.

19 Responses

  1. Chris Holbert

    JI definitely has nailed down the starting SS position. They probably should seriously consider resigning him, especially if they have soured on Peraza. I am not sure, since he just turned 25, if that is the case. Peraza is definitely a confidence player, if he does not have regular playing time, and has some self doubt, which he definitely seems to have, currently, then he is not going to be productive. I do not think they anybody coming to fill the SS role, unless they get bold and go trade for a young stud SS, Lindor?, and sign him long term. Ultimately that may be a better use of money, rather than signing Scooter, not to get off subject.

  2. George Stricker

    Agreed. Peraza’s future with Reds is in jeopardy. It probably comes down to Scooter’s future. Cannot keep both players.

  3. Doug Gray

    Just going to chime in and say that no one should look at range factor at all, because it’s entirely dependent on the pitching staff generating ground balls and not the actual ability or actual range of a player on the infield.

    Defensive stats are enough of a mess as it is. Range factor, though, is even more of a mess than others. It’s basically as valuable as fielding percentage. It tells you a very small amount about the ability of a fielder.

    • Scott C

      Doug, I have heard you and others, take little stock in Defensive numbers, although a lot of talking heads on TV do. I personally understand them less than I do the offensive WAR etc. But I would agree that any stat that is based on what some else does is virtually worthless. Defensively, to me the best tell on how good a defensive player is, is how easy he makes a hard play look. I know that has some subjective to it but I player who makes has to make a spectacular play on what should have been a routine play (to me that was Brandon Phillips) is not a good defensive player. The eye test that Tom talks about tells me Iglesias makes al the plays and for the most part makes them look easy. Maybe not the twirling 360 degrees on a throw but otherwise.

    • lwblogger2

      Glad you posted this… I was going to post the same and now don’t have to. I’m not a fan of defensive metrics at all and am kind of old-school even on some offensive metrics. Range Factor is an old-school metric and it kind of stinks. It is worse than even advanced fielding metrics and those aren’t good in my opinion.

  4. Rut

    This was my reasoning as well (3 points above). Need can dictate moves, and worst case it would not be that costly even if JI regressed to his hitting stats with Detroit.

    Given GABP factor, feel confident he won’t.

    If the cost is low enough, would be 100% behind a 2yr deal with team option for 3rd. Say 2yrs/$7 or $8mil, 3rd year team option for $5 or $6mil and $500k buyout.

    • Scott C

      i am not saying that Cosart was the equal overall of Larkin or Conception, but then neither Is Iglesias but he was a very good defensive SS like Conception, Larkin or Iglesias.

  5. James Vincent

    I know you need to fill space but come on. The guy is a 240 hitter and that’s all he will ever be. A dime a dozen. They are sitting a top 25 prospect and guy who got 200 hits last year for a fluke. More shit management form the reds.

    • PhP

      Also, Iglesias has never hit below .255 and carries a career .271 batting average. Might not have much pop but as the post points out and average to above average hitter for a SS

  6. Joey

    When did they announce Hunter Greene at SS?

  7. Chris Holbert

    I know this has been said many times, but how can you be satisfied with that 1B production for the next 2 or 3 years..

    • Lwblogger2

      You can’t, assuming this really is what Votto is now.

  8. Roger Garrett

    I was shocked as well because there are teams that are loaded with enough bats to play him every day because of the glove and his lifetime average of .270.I think what that says more then anything is that teams will take average fielders at any position provided they can hit and with power. Fielding has become a secondary need vs hitting.Gone are the defense first at short and behind the plate thought process that used to be in MLB.Not saying it won’t work or even if its right but the best example is in the other dugout tonight.I ask you would you rather have Tucker and his one gold glove and Iggy or Baez and Contreras and their bats.Its can you hit that drives the wagon in the game today.As for Iggy I would take his glove and .270 but you can’t have him,Peraza and Tucker on the same team and getting a lot of playing time

    • lost11found

      Analytics can provide insights but it can also lead to a bit of groupthink. Professional sports in general are a bit primate-see/do that does not take into account a rosters strengths and weaknesses

  9. Roger Garrett

    I know this is about extending Iggy but I want to make one comment about Peraza.Unless this kid still at 24 hits he can’t be part of the future at short or at any other position on the diamond.I fear he has become the next Billy example now in year 4 I believe and I want him just like I did with Billy to make it I just don’t see it.He has pop and has the ability he just won’t change his approach at the plate.They pitch him away he lunges and hits a little lazy ball to the right side.He gets himself out most of the time because he has zero plate discipline.

  10. Lwblogger2

    And Castellanos is not a good RF defensively. I don’t really like either of those options.