The Angels have a new shortstop, as they’ve acquired veteran Jose Iglesias from the Orioles in exchange for minor league right-handers Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto, per announcements from both clubs. It’s the second straight winter with a notable trade between the two teams. The Halos acquired Dylan Bundy from the O’s last winter.
It’s something of a surprising move — one that rather definitively closes the door on a reunion between the Halos and free-agent shortstop Andrelton Simmons (though most expected Simmons to land elsewhere anyhow). Baltimore general manager Mike Elias has previously spoken of Iglesias’ importance to the roster, calling him a “perfect fit for what we need right now” (link via Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun). Elias said it was an easy decision to pick up the $3.5MM club option on Iglesias for the 2021 season, although the Orioles waited until the last minute to formally make said decision.
Iglesias, 31 next month, may not be the generational defender that Simmons is, but he’s long been regarded as one of the game’s premier defenders at the position. The knock against him has typically been his offense (or lack thereof), but he flipped the narrative in 2020 by slashing .373/.400/.556 with three homers and 17 doubles. Iglesias shouldn’t be expected to repeat that production, as he benefited greatly from a .407 average on balls in play while landing in just the 12th and 36th percentiles, respectively, in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
That said, Iglesias still has some value at the dish. The 2020 season was actually the third of his career in which he’s batted .300 or better, and he’s been one of the more difficult hitters in the game to strike out since making his MLB debut back in 2011. He lacks any real power and doesn’t draw many walks, which often leads to a rather “empty” batting average, but those bat-to-ball skills do allow him to get on base at a respectable clip (career .319).
Iglesias’ BABIP-fueled surge was well-timed, as he wasn’t able to play much at shortstop in 2020 owing to a nagging quadriceps injury that limited his mobility. Assuming he’s healthy in 2021, he’ll give the Angels a shortstop who’s posted 18 Defensive Runs Saved and a 35.4 Ultimate Zone Rating over his past 4672 innings at the shortstop position.
It’s a cost-effective means of addressing a glaring hole on the roster — one that should allow the Angels to maintain a strong infield defense. That the Halos filled such a clear need via a trade bodes poorly for this winter’s crop of free-agent shortstops, however. With Simmons hitting the market, names like Marcus Semien and Didi Gregorius were surely eyeing the Angels as a potential fit. Iglesias’ salary is light enough that the Angels could still add another shortstop and use Iglesias in a utility role, though it seems unlikely that they’d have traded away young talent to acquire a utility man with so many other options on the market. In all likelihood, Iglesias will be tabbed as the starter, leaving Gregorius, Simmons, Semien and other shortstops looking elsewhere for homes in free agency.
In Stallings and Pinto, the Orioles will add another pair of far-off pitching prospects who could add to the organization’s depth down the road. Stallings was the Angels’ fifth-round pick out of the University of Tennessee in 2019 and now slots in 26th among Orioles farmhands over at MLB.com.
Stallings has yet to pitch in a professional game because the Angels shut him down after signing him out of the draft, citing a heavy college workload. MLB.com’s report on him credits him for having a legitimate four-pitch mix, albeit without a plus offering. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen tabs Stallings as a “low-variance, fifth starter prospect.” The 19-year-old Pinto has just 12 pro innings under his belt and didn’t rank inside the Angels’ 30 best prospects, nor does he land on Baltimore’s top 30 list.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported the deal (via Twitter).