Exploring a Minnesota Twins and Free Agent Jose Iglesias fit

DETROIT, MI - JULY 21: Jose Iglesias #1 of the Detroit Tigers hits a 2-RBI double against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning at Comerica Park on July 21, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JULY 21: Jose Iglesias #1 of the Detroit Tigers hits a 2-RBI double against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning at Comerica Park on July 21, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Twins will need to find an addition to their middle infield this winter and they could turn to free agent Jose Iglesias.

The Minnesota Twins need help in the middle infield, period. Right now if the season were to start the likely starting duo would be Jorge Polanco at shortstop and Ehire Adrianza at second base. It does seem that the Twins front office would like to change that fact before the team begins 2019. We just don’t know exactly which direction the team will go.

There is a willingness to consider moving Polanco to second base where many believe he will perform better over the long haul anyways. There just are not many impact players available at the shortstop position to help make that move. Manny Machado technically fits there, but with his range and defense already in question, he may not be the option the Twins would choose.

The next name on the shortstop list is Jose Iglesias whose defense is respected around the league. Unlike Machado, Iglesias will also come with a contract that is a much smaller year and salary commitment. The question is if Iglesias can provide enough of an addition to the Twins middle infield to give them a boost back into contention.

The reason a team comes to look at Iglesias is for his defense, but his offense helps everyone linger just a little longer. Iglesias spent 2018 slashing .269/.310/.389 and had a .699 OPS. So nothing you are going to blush at, but it does qualify as middle of the pack for starting shortstops.

For instance, in 2018, Iglesias was 16th in batting average for infielders who played half their games at shortstop. He was 25th in OPS with those same parameters, and 23rd in on-base percentage. Offensively, Iglesias is clearly not an upgrade over Polanco who in a shortened season was 8th in batting average, 7th in OBP, and 8th in OPS.

So the question in looking at Iglesias’ fit for the Twins is whether or not his defense is enough of an upgrade to move Polanco to second base or if maybe the Twins are better off pursuing a second baseman. In taking a look at defensive metrics, Iglesias was +1 in DRS in 2018 and +8 over the past three seasons. He also had a UZR of 8.2 in 2018, 8.7, in 2017, and 12.1 in 2016.

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Defensive metrics are a hard thing to use as comparison tools or judgement tools on a players defensive ability. For instance Polanco’s -1 DRS and Iglesias +1 DRS doesn’t feel that far off, but Polanco’s UZR in 2018 of -3.9 certainly feels a lot different from Iglesias’ 8.2. The fielding with positional adjustment added stat (DEF) on FanGraphs seems to paint an even larger discrepancy between the two shortstops with Polanco coming in at -0.5 and Iglesias at 13.6.

So it is a small snapshot of some metrics we can try to use and they each point to Iglesias being a superior defender to Polanco. Iglesias doesn’t come without his warts or else the one time top prospect likely wouldn’t be available this offseason as good shortstops are hard to come by. This article is a few years old but it suggests that Iglesias may have a liability in his arm strength and going to his right.

The post is by August Fagerstrom and in May of 2016 he posted it at FanGraphs and it lays out that Iglesias is very strong in most areas of defensive play such as plays up the middle to his left and right at him. But plays to his right can be a struggle. Possibly caused by a possible lack of arm strength and bad transitions from his glove to his hand, both of which limit his defensive prowess.

Even if limited when moving to his right side, Iglesias by eye test and metrics is a better defensive shortstop than Polanco. The question that may need to be answered is will the Twins have enough offensive firepower to go all out defense in the infield, or is there more value for the Twins to take the defensive warts with Polanco and add more offense to second base.

Next. Robbie Grossman looks like a likely non-tender candidate. dark

I was all on the sign Iglesias bandwagon at the beginning of the offseason, and still am pro that move. At the same time, I am more than willing to explore the option of signing someone like D.J. LeMahieu who will be a plus in both offensive and defensive categories for the Twins and take what Polanco offers at short.