The Reds and Raisel Iglesias announced a new salary agreement this afternoon in the amount of $24.125 million covering the pitcher’s final three seasons with the Reds. It buys out three years of Iglesias’ arbitration. The contract does NOT add an extra year to his time with the Reds.
Iglesias, who turns 29 before Opening Day, had signed a multi-year deal with the Reds back in June, 2014. It stipulated his salary through the 2020 season. It gave Iglesias the right to choose arbitration once he qualified, which he did this year on the basis of his 3.154 years of major league service time. By the terms of the 2014 deal, Iglesias was scheduled to make $5.7 million in 2019 and 2020. The Reds closer would have certainly requested arbitration this year instead of taking the $5.7 million.
Even though the final season with an agreed upon salary in the 2014 deal was for 2020, Iglesias was still bound by the major league collective bargaining agreement to stay with the Reds through six years of service time. So Iglesias would have remained under Reds team control in the 2021 even without the new contract announced today. Iglesias remains eligible for free agency in 2022, the same as before.
You wonder if the Reds (or Iglesias, for that matter) looked to add years. Maybe both sides were content with this duration.
That question aside, what should we make of the deal?
It provides the Reds a degree of budget certainty with Iglesias. If the pitcher stays healthy and productive the next two seasons, the deal probably costs the Reds less money than they would have paid in three separate years of arbitration. Players give up money for certainty at this stage of their careers.
It gives Iglesias more economic security. In the 2014 agreement, he was only guaranteed $10 million more. If he had suffered a shoulder injury or become unproductive, Iglesias could have become a non-tender candidate in 2021 or sooner under the arbitration system. The new deal means Iglesias is now guaranteed $24 million over the next three years regardless of how healthy or productive he stays.
This intersection of interests is why deals like this are relatively easy to do. But neither of those outcomes matter much to the Reds on the field or to the team’s fans. What is important is whether the deal makes the Reds more or less likely to trade Raisel Iglesias.
If the Reds become less interested in trading Iglesias, Reds fans should look on the deal as a profound negative. Once the Reds decided Iglesias’ shoulder prevented his return to the starting rotation, and Iglesias proved he was a capable closer, the team should have been looking to trade him. I made a detailed case for that last May.
Iglesias’ new contract doesn’t fundamentally change that calculus. Although if the deal makes Iglesias a little more attractive to the Reds, it would make the pitcher more appealing to trade partners for the same reasons.
But here’s what is meaningful that has changed: the manager, the pitching coach and the math.
Yes, the Reds should still be looking to make Iglesias the cornerstone of a trade to return an impact starting pitcher. But the rapidly shifting strategic currents in major league baseball are narrowing the value gap between starters and relievers. Depending, that is, on how those pitchers are used.
Manager David Bell and pitching coach Derek Johnson may see Raisel Iglesias as an irreplaceable piece of the puzzle. Iglesias is a perfect fit for the kind of pitcher who throws more than one inning, facing the opposing lineup once, whether at the start, middle or end of a close game. Bryan Price and Jim Riggleman often talked about using Iglesias in new ways, but didn’t follow through. Maybe the new dugout brain trust will.
President of Baseball Operations, Dick Williams hinted at that today when he said this about the new deal: “David and Derek will spend time with Raisel over the winter. This is a guy who loves to pitch. He loves to appear frequently. He loves to appear in multiple innings if possible. He enjoys the back of the game. But he enjoyed starting. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. The more we see an elite arm like this, the better off we are as a team.”
Bottom line: You trade the Raisel Iglesias who pitches 68 innings in a traditional closer role. But you might want to hold on to the Raisel Iglesias who pitches 90-100 high-leverage innings. That’s a much closer call. $8 million a year isn’t nothing, even if he throws 100 innings. It’s hard to say yet how much value the one-time-through pitchers can provide and how difficult those guys will be to find.
Whether Bell and Johnson can flip Iglesias’ calculus remains to be seen. The Milwaukee Brewers, where Derek Johnson worked prior to his new gig, were at the forefront of new tactics in deploying pitchers. Even they still used a closer.
To be sure, major league front offices are operating in a new strategic world. But the Reds must continue to take seriously the idea that Raisel Iglesias might offer the most value to the team in a trade, new contract included.