It is no secret that shortstop José Iglesias is eligible for free agency at the conclusion of the 2018 season. The Tigers signed the 28-year old to a one-year, $6.275 million deal in the off-season, avoiding arbitration in the process. With the Tigers firmly in rebuilding mode, despite sitting just three games out of first place in the abysmal American League Central, Iglesias is among several players that general manager Al Avila was likely hoping would have a bit of trade value as the deadline approaches in July.
That hope appeared to be disintegrating early in the season, as Iglesias got off to a nightmarish 2-for-35 start in his first 10 games. Ever since the Tigers’ suffered a four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland back in mid-April, however, Iglesias has completely reversed course with his offensive production. He closed out April going 19-for-59 (.322), and has followed that up with a 19-for-69 (.275) May, heading into tonight’s action. Over that combined span, Iglesias was able to effectively raise his batting average from a microscopic .057 to a seemingly miraculous .245 clip.
Shrinking the analytics down to his last 15 games, Iglesias has been even hotter with the bat, and there’s evidence in his strikeout rate that indicates he is seeing the ball really well right now. He was striking out at an 18.1% rate through April, well above his career K-rate of 13.5%. With just four punch-outs in his last 51 at bats (7.8%), Iglesias has been able to get on base at a .404 clip over that stretch.
Not known for being a dynamic, nor instinctive, baserunner, Iglesias is also getting it done on the base paths. He currently leads the club with seven stolen bases. He had exactly seven swipes in each of his last two full seasons, so manager Ron Gardenhire’s aggressive philosophy is definitely benefiting him in that area.
We have come to expect sparkling defense from Iglesias, but there is statistical data that suggests he is off to a potential career year with the glove as well. His 5.6 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is tops among shortstops in all of baseball, and nearly a full point higher than those of Andrelton Simmons and Francisco Lindor. If he’s able to sustain this level of defensive output, Iglesias will undoubtedly find himself in contention for his first Gold Glove—leaving aside the fact that it’s partly an offensive award.
Add all that up and the result is a guy who is doing a little bit with the bat, a little bit with his legs, and a whole lot with his glove. Tack on a dramatic walk-off hit on Mother’s Day against Seattle, and Iglesias just might be proving he can provide some veteran leadership to a contending team. At very least, a player that looked like he might hit free agency in the worst position of his career has righted the ship.
Jose Iglesias is never going to bring you much in trade. As a hitter with a career 80 wRC+, even this modest recent hot streak will have to prove sustainable to convince teams to deal for him as anything more than depth. But, whether Avila’s phone starts ringing with inquiries for his services or not, Jose Iglesias is providing value to a young, injury-riddled team that desperately needs it.