NOVEMBER 27: Iglesias will receive a $6MM salary in 2019, followed by $9MM and $9.125MM paydays, per Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter).
NOVEMBER 21: The Reds announced today that they have agreed to a three-year deal with closer Raisel Iglesias. It will promise him $24.125MM, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter), but won’t expand the team’s control rights.
This is a fairly unusual contract agreement; though we have seen an increasing number of multi-year, arbitration-only deals, they are typically of shorter duration and in some cases give the team additional option years. In this case, though, Iglesias was playing under an unusual contract in the first place, having signed a deal that would no longer be permitted under MLB’s international rules.
Under his original contract, Iglesias had the right to exit the guaranteed portion of the deal and enter arbitration. He elected not to do so last year, but still had the right to turn down the $5MM payday he already had in hand for 2019.* Whether or not he’d have done so is not clear, but perhaps he’d have rolled the dice on boosting his salary both now and in the future. Certainly, barring a disastrous intervening campaign, it was highly likely he’d have elected to test the arb process in 2020.
Where things get confusing with this deal is the 2021 campaign, the final year covered. Under his original contract, which runs only through 2020, he did not obtain the right to elect free agency early. Accordingly, he’d already have been controlled through 2021 regardless of today’s extension. That distinguishes it in a critical way from, say, the recent extensions secured by Brad Hand (link) and Felipe Vazquez (link).
In other words, this deal is all about resolving the salary uncertainty and fixing a price tag for Iglesias. The Reds will lock into a new payday to shave off some of the earning upside for Iglesias. Instead of the $10MM total he was promised over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, with the upside to earn more in those years and in particular in 2021, Iglesias will now secure an additional $14.125MM in guaranteed money. It’s certainly possible he could have earned more than that through arbitration, with good health and continued saves tallies, particularly if he had opted into arbitration this season and secured a big new starting point.
As part and parcel of the financial maneuvering, this move represents an indication that the Reds expect Iglesias not only to remain a productive reliever, but also to hold down the closer’s role. Saves, after all, are a key driver of reliever earnings in arbitration. Of course, it’s also still possible he’ll be shipped out to another organization, but this contract may also be intended in part as a commitment to a core player.
Iglesias, who’ll turn 29 before the start of the 2019 campaign, showed quite a bit of promise as a starter in his debut season of 2015. For reasons that remain somewhat unclear, he was bumped into the bullpen in the ensuing season and ultimately slid into the ninth inning. Iglesias has since mostly functioned as a traditional closer, with occasional multi-inning appearances but not enough to stand out.
Though it’s tantalizing to think of what might have been, Iglesias has thrived as a reliever. In 163 total appearances from the pen, he has compiled 201 innings of 2.42 ERA ball with 10.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9, picking up 64 saves along the way. He sits in the 96 mph range with his average fastball and still leans on both a change and curve. Iglesias has been utterly dominant against righties and solid-enough against left-handed hitters; in the aggregate he’s among the game’s more effective relievers.
*The original version of this post mistakenly stated that Iglesias had decided not to opt out of his 2019 guaranteed salary. In fact, he had only previously decided against doing so in 2018.