The Angels are keeping their closer in the fold, reportedly agreeing to terms on a four-year, $58 million deal with Raisel Iglesias. The Halos have yet to announce the move. Iglesias is a client of Magnus Sports.
Iglesias is the top free-agent reliever on this winter’s market, a fact reflected in the reported four-year guarantee. Only one reliever (Liam Hendriks and Drew Pomeranz, respectively) has landed a four-year pact in each of the past two offseasons.
Iglesias earns his place among that group after posting one of the stronger seasons by any late-game option around the league. The Angels acquired the right-hander from the Reds last offseason in a move that required little more than assuming his $9.125 million salary for 2021. That proved to be an absolute bargain, as Iglesias acclimated well to his new home in Orange County. Assigned the Angels’ ninth-inning role, he tossed 70 innings of 2.57 ERA ball, successfully locking down 34 of 39 save attempts.
That marked Iglesias’ fifth season (out of six since he transitioned to the bullpen in 2016) of sub-3.00 ERA work. The native of Cuba has rather quietly been one of the sport’s most consistent, reliable relief arms. That’s in spite of the fact that Iglesias has spent most of his career in Cincinnati, which sports one of the game’s most hitter-friendly ballparks.
Impressive as Iglesias’ run-prevention numbers are, his underlying metrics might be even better. The right-hander has punched out a strong 29.7% of batters faced over the course of his career, and he’s coming off a personal-best 37.7% strikeout rate. That’s the eighth-highest mark of the 138 relievers with 50-plus innings pitched, while his massive 20.6% swinging-strike rate trailed only Josh Hader among that same group.
While many relievers can struggle to harness high-octane stuff, Iglesias has had no such problems. His walk rates in each of the past three seasons have been far lower than average, and this past season’s 4.4% figure was among the 10 lowest among relievers. Iglesias’ 33.3 percentage-point gap between his strikeout and walk rates ranked third, as did his 2.06 SIERA.
The only real drawback in Iglesias’ game has been the longball. He’s generally a fly-ball pitcher, and that’s led to some issues keeping the ball in the yard. Iglesias has allowed homers at a higher than average clip in three of the past four years, including a 1.41 HR/9 mark in 2021. That’s a small red flag, but Iglesias is so effective at preventing baserunners that he often mitigates the damage done via the home run. Opponents reached base at just a .243 clip in 2021.
Iglesias’ reported contract terms land right in line with expectations. Entering the offseason, MLBTR forecasted a four-year, $56 million guarantee that Iglesias moderately tops. That came after he rejected Los Angeles’ $18.4 million qualifying offer, a decision that proved wise considering the solid multi-year contract he landed. The Angels won’t directly forfeit a draft choice for re-signing their own free agent, although they are passing on the right to collect the compensation pick they would have received had Iglesias signed elsewhere.
That’s a worthwhile trade-off for the win-now Angels, who’ll hope for continued excellence from Iglesias at the back end of the bullpen. He becomes the second and more expensive multi-year relief investment of the offseason for Los Angeles, which also signed southpaw Aaron Loup to a two-year deal. The Angels will try to anchor a bullpen that was below-average in 2021, even including Iglesias’ stellar numbers.
The deal’s financial breakdown has yet to be reported, but it becomes another significant deal on the Angels’ books. Were Iglesias to be paid $14.5 million annually, the Halos' estimated 2022 commitments would be above $176 million, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. The deal’s $14.5 million luxury-tax hit (which is certain, since luxury-tax calculations are based on contract's average annual values as opposed to actual payment schedule) puts the Angels’ projected CBT number above $185 million.
The luxury-tax thresholds in the next collective bargaining agreement have yet to be determined, but the Angels haven’t exceeded the threshold in more than a decade. They’ve never opened a season with a player payroll higher than last year’s $181 million mark, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Whether owner Arte Moreno is willing to push beyond that in 2022 remains to be seen, but there figures to be plenty of urgency to put a strong supporting cast around the Angels’ star core. Los Angeles could also have to deal with a tougher division than it has in years past, as the Rangers and Mariners have been among the most active teams this offseason.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic was first to report the Angels were nearing agreement with Iglesias on a four-year deal. Jeff Passan of ESPN was first to report the deal had been agreed upon. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the $58 million guarantee.