The Reds announced that they have signed Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias to a seven-year contract. The deal will guarantee Iglesias $27MM (including a signing bonus in the range of $5MM to $6MM) once he obtains a work visa. It also allows him to opt into arbitration if he becomes eligible. While the deal is for seven years, Iglesias’ free agency will not be delayed, as one of those years includes the 2014 season, during which he will not accrue a full year of service time anyway.
Iglesias, who is represented by Bart Hernandez and Praver Shapiro Sports Management, was said last week to be nearing a deal with the Reds. At the time, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports relayed a report from Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman, who has seen the 24-year-old Iglesias pitch extensively and thinks he could be in the Majors after just a month or so in the minor leagues (Twitter links).
Iglesias’ name has been on the rumor circuit for months following his defection from Cuba last November (after one previous failed attempt). Ben Badler of Baseball America provides a scouting report on the 5’11, 165 lb righty, noting that he pitched at 88-92 mph in the 2013 World Baseball Classic but had pitched more in the 92-95 mph range in previous international tournaments. Iglesias also features a sweeping breaking ball in the 76-81 mph range, per Badler.
The 24-year-old Iglesias’ stats are available over at ObstructedView.com, which shows that in his past 82 2/3 innings in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, he posted a 3.05 ERA with a 74-to-30 K/BB ratio (five of those walks were intentional). His new contract means that he will be controlled through the 2020 season.
Most evaluators peg Iglesias as a quick-to-the-Majors bullpen arm, but the report of MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon notes that the Reds believe he is capable of starting. According to a tweet from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, Iglesias has added a changeup and otherwise tightened up his offerings. Cincinnati held a similar belief about fellow Cuban signee Aroldis Chapman before eventually settling Chapman into the closer’s role, where he has become arguably the best reliever in baseball. The club has also used several valuable draft picks on college relievers with the intention of trying them as starters, such as Tony Cingrani, Michael Lorenzen, and Nick Howard.
Depending on the annual salary structure and his ultimate usage, the ability to go to arbitration could convey a good bit of upside to Iglesias. Certainly, he would have greater earning capacity if he is used a starter or closer. Sheldon tweets that Iglesias will take the 40-man roster spot of Roger Bernadina, who was designated for assignment earlier this week.