Angels acquire proven closer Raisel Iglesias from the Reds
The Angels found essential back-end bullpen help as the virtual winter meetings began Monday, acquiring closer Raisel Iglesias and cash from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for reliever right-hander Noé Ramirez and a player to be named.
Iglesias, 31 next month, went 4-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 31 strikeouts to five walks in 23 innings last season. He has a 2.85 ERA and 375 strikeouts to 104 walks over 316⅓ innings since 2016.
Iglesias converted eight of 10 save opportunities last season. He has 106 saves since switching permanently to the bullpen in June 2016 and is one of only five major leaguers to collect 100 since 2017.
Although he is not the No. 1 starter fans hope new general manager Perry Minasian will add, Iglesias is a welcome addition to an Angels bullpen that blew a major league-worst 14 saves in 26 chances last year.
“There’s a lot of different ways to prevent runs, whether that be improve with the personnel on the mound, improve defensively, improve in game planning and improve positioning,” Minasian said in a conference call. “But the bullpen was an area where we feel like we can make some adjustments there and add some personnel that really put us in a good spot.”
Iglesias, a native of Cuba, is due $9.125 million in 2021, his final season before becoming a free agent. The Reds will pay an undisclosed amount to offset part of the contract’s burden on the Angels.
The Angels plan to target high-caliber pitchers during the virtual winter meetings and the rest of the offseason. New GM Perry Minasian is ‘open to anything.’
Entering Monday, the Angels’ 2021 payroll in relation to the competitive-balance tax was estimated by Fangraphs at $171 million. That meant Minasian had about $23 million before reaching preseason 2020 spending levels and $39 million before meeting next year’s luxury-tax threshold of $210 million.
Owner Arte Moreno said last month the team’s payroll would not be reduced. He declined to say how much he intends to invest in the Angels’ opening-day roster.
It doesn’t seem as though Minasian will be hampered financially. With an eye on maintaining budget flexibility to address the rest of the roster, he traded last week for the cost-effective José Iglesias, a slick-fielding shortstop who will replace Andrelton Simmons and coincidentally was born in Cuba one day after the Angels’ new closer.
Ramirez, who is projected to earn around $1 million next season through arbitration, had a 4.04 ERA in 141 appearances with the Angels since 2017. He could be counted on to keep games close, but his arsenal, which features a fastball that averaged 89 mph the last two seasons, wasn’t well-suited to late-game scenarios.
Igelsias’ is. He throws a 96-mph fastball and a mid-80s slider. The breaking pitch generated whiffs 48% of the time last season. Iglesias also frequently turns to a changeup, off which hitters batted .158 in 2020. A sinker complements the pitch mix.
Opponents last season made contact against Iglesias’ pitches on about 64% of their swings. Only 12 qualified relievers produced a lower contact rate. Right-hander Mike Mayers, who drew higher-stakes assignments from manager Joe Maddon as the season drew to an end, was the only Angels reliever who came close to matching Iglesias. He held batters to a 65% contact rate; no other bullpen mate with more than 20 innings had a rate below 73%.
“With Raisel, it’s a combination of power, swing-and-miss, with a breaking ball and a changeup, with an elite fastball and his ability to throw strikes,” Minasian said. “The less traffic [in the] late innings, the more years we put on Joe [Maddon’s] life.”
There is more work to be done. The Angels have purged seven pitchers from their bullpen since the end of the season. Minasian said some currently in the organization could take on major league relief roles but he didn’t rule out additional moves to shore up a group Moreno pointed out as the Angels’ biggest weakness in 2020.
José Iglesias, a strong fielder who batted .373 in 2020 for the Baltimore Orioles, was acquired by the Angels on the day they nontendered closer Hansel Robles.
“You look at the teams that are winning,” Moreno said during Minasian’s news conference last month, “they’re closing out their games and competing at a different level in extra inning games. … You really can go through and nitpick different parts of the game. But at the end of the day, we weren’t finishing games. Those L’s needs to turn into W’s.”
Minasian might still augment the starting rotation, which currently figures to include some combination of Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria and Jose Suarez. But he suggested the group may not require too significant an overhaul.
“You cannot go out and sign 15 new arms, eight new position players,” Minasian said. “It’s just not realistic. ... I think it’s a really talented group [of coaches] that can make a difference. We have a manager who has a track record of getting the most out of the guys that play for him.
“I really believe there’s some real upside from an internal improvement standpoint. It’s going to be up to us as a collective group to get the most out of these guys.”
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