The Angels announced they’ve released shortstop José Iglesias. The move clears active and 40-man roster space for right-hander Janson Junk, whose previously-reported promotion to the majors has now been made official.
It’s a somewhat surprising move, as Iglesias has served as Los Angeles’ regular shortstop for the majority of the season. Acquired from the Orioles over the winter, the 31-year-old has started 111 of the Angels 134 games to this point. But he’s proven unable to sustain last year’s small sample offensive output, as Iglesias is hitting .259/.295/.375 with eight home runs across 447 plate appearances (85 wRC+). That’s a bit below his career .276/.316/.380 mark and well off last year’s .373/.400/.556 pace.
As evidenced by his career production, Iglesias has never been a particularly fearsome hitter. He’s instead long been regarded as one of the game’s top defensive infielders, which has led to regular opportunities as an everyday shortstop with the Tigers, Reds, Orioles and Angels in recent seasons. As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently examined, though, Iglesias’ defensive metrics have tumbled this season — a problem that has plagued much of the club.
Defensive Runs Saved has pegged Iglesias as 21 runs below average at shortstop this season, the league’s worst mark for a player at any position. Ultimate Zone Rating and Statcast’s Outs Above Average aren’t quite so bearish, but both systems also peg Iglesias as below average with the glove. Single-season defensive metrics can be variable, and Iglesias is being compared to his peers at shortstop — who tend to be among the game’s best overall infielders. So there remains some hope of him turning things around somewhat, but his unanimously poor ratings this year also likely suggest that his days as one of the sport’s most valuable defenders could be behind him.
Whether Iglesias can right the ship defensively will be determined elsewhere, as he’s apparently not in the future plans for the Angels. At 66-68, Los Angeles is almost certainly going to miss the playoffs this season. Iglesias was due to reach free agency this winter, and the Angels were evidently prepared to move on and look for other options at the position.
For the season’s final few weeks, it seems they’ll give a look to utilityman Jack Mayfield, who has flashed some power potential in recent weeks and has ample long-term team control. Mayfield is hitting just .216 with a .262 on-base percentage overall and is soon to turn 31 years old, though, so it’d be a surprise if Los Angeles is content to roll into 2022 with him pencilled in as the regular shortstop. More likely, they’ll turn to free agency or trade this winter with Mayfield reassuming a depth role moving forward.
Iglesias is playing out this season on a $3.5MM contract. Around $600K of that salary is still owed through the end of the year. Unless another club claims Iglesias off release waivers, the Angels will remain on the hook for the rest of that sum. If he passes through waivers unclaimed, Iglesias would be free to sign with any team for the prorated portion of the league minimum, which would be subtracted from the Angels’ tab. Because he is being cut loose after September 1, Iglesias wouldn’t be eligible for a new team’s postseason roster if he were to latch on somewhere for the stretch run.