As they cleared space for improvements to their bullpen, the Angels also spent part of Wednesday’s contract-tendering deadline manufacturing a trade that will fill the vacancy created by the departure of Gold Glove-winning shortstop Andrelton Simmons. New general manager Perry Minasian dealt two minor league pitchers for veteran infielder José Iglesias.
Iglesias, 31 next month, has saved 13 runs on defense since 2015, ninth-most among all MLB shortstops. The figure is nowhere near as impressive as Simmons’ majorleague-best 123 defensive runs saved in that time frame but it is promising. It’s two runs better than that produced by Marcus Semien, the former Oakland Athletics shortstop who has been a Gold Glove finalist two of the last three seasons.
“We feel like we’ve added an impact defender,” said Minasian of his first major roster move since being named the Angels' general manager Nov. 12.
Iglesias hit well in the shortened 2020 season, batting .373 with 17 doubles and three homers over 39 games. He hit .288 with a .724 on-base-plus-slugging percentage the previous season, when he a played a career-high 146 games with the Cincinnati Reds.
However, the trends were promising enough — Iglesias’ hard-hit percentage, line drive rate and exit velocity have climbed gradually over the years — to encourage Minasian to ship starting pitching prospect Garrett Stallings and fellow right-hander Jean Pinto to Baltimore. Iglesias will be paid $3.5 million next season before becoming a free agent.
In a conference call, Minasian described the deal as a bargain not only because of its monetary value but also for the impact it could have on the roster. Iglesias’ arrival will allow the Angels to continue developing standout super-utility man David Fletcher as a second baseman and give youngsters such as Luis Rengifo and Franklin Barreto time to hone their skills at shortstop.
“To add a player like Iglesias at shortstop, to shore up the middle of the diamond and the infield defensively, was something that we feel like is going to make our pitching better,” Minasian said. “I know we talked about pitching and the need for pitching. It's not just the guys on the mound. I can't stress this enough. There’s other factors. ... With David moving to second base, that’s a pretty good middle infield combination.”
A native of Cuba, the slick-fielding Iglesias signed with the Boston Red Sox for $8.25 million as a 19-year-old international free agent in 2009. He has been worth 12.3 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference, since his MLB debut in 2011. He has averaged .278 with an OPS of .700 in 841 games.
The Angels on Wednesday also decided against offering arbitration to a group that included former closer Hansel Robles. Robles was projected to earn roughly $4 million through the arbitration process.
One year after assembling a breakout season that led to a $2.45-million raise, Robles’ 2020 ended after 18 appearances with a horrific 10.26 ERA, a spiked walk rate and diminished velocity. The Angels believed Robles’ difficulties stemmed from an inability to get his adrenaline pumping in empty ballparks.
Robles labored from the onset of the season. Working with a 94-mph fastball in the opener, he loaded the bases in extra innings and took the loss when a teammate gave up a walk-off grand slam to the Oakland Athletics’ Matt Olson.
By the team’s 12th game, Robles was demoted from closer. He spent most of the season pitching in low-leverage situations and was called on to protect a tie or lead just three times the rest of the way. He flashed a few high-90s fastballs, but the pitch averaged 95.5 mph, a drop of 1.6 mph from 2019.
Robles’ plummet stood in sharp contrast to the success of Mike Mayers, a fellow waiver claim who quickly earned the trust of manager Joe Maddon. The right-hander finished with two saves in four chances, a team-best 2.10 ERA and a strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of 12.9, highest among Angels pitchers.
Mayers was tendered a contract for next season alongside two-way star Shohei Ohtani; starters Andrew Heaney and Dylan Bundy; relievers Noé Ramirez and Felix Peña; and catcher Max Stassi. Hard-throwing right-hander Keynan Middleton, swing-man Matt Andriese, left-hander Hoby Milner and reliever Justin Anderson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, were not tendered contracts.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.