It is difficult to predict which direction the Detroit Tigers will be headed this offseason until a new general manager (GM) is hired. Finally, albeit long overdue, team owner Christopher Ilitch fired Al Avila, leaving assistant GM Sam Menzin in charge of the day-to-day operation for the remainder of the 2022 regular season. This leaves us to speculate on who the next full-time hire will be, but in the meantime, the organization needs to begin looking towards the offseason. Former Tigers' shortstop Jose Iglesias is having a career year, and it's basically going unnoticed.
Jose Iglesias, 32, signed a one-year deal worth $5 million this past offseason to join the Colorado Rockies. In 2022, Iglesias is slashing .318/.356/.418 with an OPS of .774. The veteran shortstop is also producing a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.8 this season.
Since leaving the Detroit Tigers following the 2018 season, Jose Iglesias has become a journeyman shortstop with short stints in Cincinnati, Baltimore, Los Angeles (Angels), Boston, and Colorado.
The Detroit Tigers are missing a two-hole hitter in their lineup to follow rookie Riley Greene; Jose Iglesias will fill that role nicely.
Along with his robust batting average, Iglesias has three home runs plus driven in 45 this season. I know what you're thinking. Despite not seeing any benefit from the thin Colorado air in the power department, maybe Iglesias is enjoying some gap-to-gap power by playing in Colorado. This notion would be incorrect. At home, Iglesias is hitting .278 over 180 at-bats with 12 doubles. He's also driven in 30 of his 45 RBIs at home. On the road, Iglesias is hitting a whopping .358 over 179 at-bats, including 15 doubles.
When you dissect his splits vs. right-handed and left-handed pitching, it's more of the same.
This season, Iglesias is raking against right-handed pitching, hitting .325 in 240 at-bats. Against left-handers, Iglesias is hitting .303. This kind of production will play in any lineup. Although the veteran shortstop doesn't hit for much power, he'd be the best hitter in Detroit's lineup this season.
When I look at what Iglesias has done in 2022, or throughout his career for that matter, it reminds me somewhat of what the Tigers had in Placido Polanco when they were championship contenders. Polanco primarily manned the second spot in the batting order during his five-year with the Tigers and hit .311 over that span.
What would the addition of Jose Iglesias mean for Javier Baez or Jonathan Schoop?
The Detroit Tigers lack just about everything, including depth. When you look at their roster, what are the positions set in stone moving forward? Centerfield and shortstop, end of the list. Detroit's big free agent addition, Javier Baez, currently leads the league with 19 errors. Despite being a former Gold Glove-winning shortstop, he may be more valuable playing second base. Baez has shown that he can still make a dazzling defensive play at shortstop, but shortly after, he will struggle to complete a routine throw to first. During his time in Chicago with the Cubs and Mets, he's spent time excelling at second base.
Baez is in the first of a five-year deal. Manager A.J. Hinch shouldn't hesitate to move Baez back to second in favor of Iglesias. This season Baez has produced a .955 fielding percentage, compared to Iglesias' .981. Over their career Iglesias who, similar to Baez, has a flare for the dramatic when it comes to fielding, has produced a stellar .982 fielding percentage to Baez's .966.
That leaves Detroit with a decision to make on the struggling Jonathan Schoop. Schoop is due $7.5 million next season and will become a DFA candidate this offseason. If Detroit retains Schoop, he can be utilized in a utility role in 2023. In addition to second base, Schoop can play third or first base. This will allow the Tigers to part ways with Jiemer Candelario using a platoon of Schoop, Willi Castro, and Harold Castro at third. Also, this buys Spencer Torkelson more time to figure out his swing.
If Hinch elected to keep Baez at short, Iglesias has proven throughout his career that he can also be a capable defender at third or second base. Although he's primarily performed his best at shortstop, he's made 37 starts at third and 31 at second in addition to his 993 at short.
FanGraphs uses a combination of data that converts a player's WAR to dollars. Iglesias is set to hit the open market, and his on-field value this season translates to $14.3 million. In fact, using this calculation over the past five seasons, Iglesias' value has never been under $11.9 million. So it is safe to say his $5 million deal for this season is a bargain. If you are wondering, the same format puts Baez at $8.2 million this season. Last year, his number came in at $31.5.
When looking for a new contract this offseason, I would expect Jose Iglesias will be looking for something in the neighborhood of $7-8 million per season over two or three years.