The Angels have an extremely interesting and pivotal offseason coming this winter. One piece of business that they should be taking care of right now is re-signing Raisel Iglesias. Iglesias, along with Alex Cobb, is the Angels only really significant free agent this winter. After the season he had, the Angels must pay what it takes and keep him on the roster. Here are three reasons why:
1) Iglesias is a dominant reliever.
This one’s obvious. Iglesias had three dominant pitches all season. For example, his slider allowed an xwOBA of .209, had 8.7 inches of horizontal break, and looked flat out unhittable all year. Here’s a little breakdown of what Iglesias contributed to the Angels in 2021:
These are elite numbers at a position of weakness for the Angels. Because of these numbers, Raisel Iglesias sure made himself a lot of money this offseason. There was a positive reception to the trade that sent Noe Ramirez and a PTBNL to the Reds, but the trade worked out even better than anyone could have guessed. Raisel turned in one of the best relief seasons in baseball.
Yeah, the first reason I think the Angels need to bring him back is pretty obvious and simple. He is a really good pitcher who has a good sample size of consistency. The idea that a team wanting to contend should bring their closer is a pretty simple one. The Angels want to contend, but more than that, they need to contend. With Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Joe Maddon all putting pressure on the front office to field a winner next season, letting an elite relief pitcher leave for a compensation pick would be a disaster.
2) Iglesias showed the ability to go multiple innings late in games.
Iglesias went 4 or more outs 16 times in 2021. In those 16 appearances, he allowed a total of 3 runs. This ability should make the team a little more comfortable with handing a hefty contract to a reliever. If the Angels want to commit big money to the rotation this offseason, their bullpen probably will not be a strength next season. Having a guy that can get you 4 or more outs in dominant fashion helps cover that problem. On top of that, this skill is extremely valuable in the playoffs. Of course, the Angels need to get there first, but every team needs versatile relief pitching at the back of their bullpen.
We have seen this skill being shown off in October already. Camilo Doval just threw 2 scoreless innings to end the game in a pivotal game 3 against the Dodgers. Garrett Whitlock threw 2 innings at the end of game 4 against the Rays that set Boston up for a series clinching walk-off. Having good arms that can go multiple innings wins in October, and the Angels do not have enough of them. Letting go of one of their few would be a massive mistake.
3) How can the Angels trust themselves to replace him for cheap?
It would be pretty surprising to see another team dump their best reliever to save 9 million this offseason. So, the Angels options are to pay up for Iglesias, or stick to the belief of not paying relievers big deals and go the cheaper route. But after last season, the Angels should not trust themselves to be able to go the cheap way. This is a graph of everyone that threw a relief pitch for the Angels bullpen last season:
That is quite a bit of bullpen shuffling for the Angels. The cluster of four relievers that they relied on heavily last season includes Raisel Iglesias, Steve Cishek, Mike Mayers, and Junior Guerra. Cishek is a 35 year old free agent, Guerra is 36 years old and wasn’t all that good, and Mayers will probably be brought back in arbitration. The rest of the bullpen, as seen on this graph, is a huge question mark. Sure, they had some interesting arms show up late into the season. Jimmy Herget showed some flashes of usefulness. Andrew Wantz should get a chance to earn a bullpen spot. But as a whole, there is not much other than question marks in the 2022 Angels bullpen. And keeping Iglesias adds a much larger margin of error than going into next season without a solidified, proven closer at the back end.
All three of these reasons should factor into why the Angels need to bring back Iglesias. Offering him a 18.4 million dollar qualifying offer is a no brainer, but a compensation pick would not be enough to let him go. This team needs to field a contender, and Iglesias helps them do that in a big way. The Angels are projected to have 50ish million off the books, and handing Iglesias a multi year deal hanging around 15-17 million per year would leave plenty of money to add to the rotation. Bringing back Iglesias is even more of a no-brainer if Arte Moreno opens the budget up a bit, but that is wishful thinking. Paying relievers is risky, but the Angels need Iglesias next season and should extend him as soon as possible.