Baltimore Orioles: Three Veteran Free Agent Shortstop Options
By Nick Stevens
The Baltimore Orioles want to bring in a veteran middle infielder who can play some defense. Here are three options they could look at, starting with shortstops.
One of the few things we learned from Thursday night’s interview with Baltimore Orioles general manager Mike Elias on 105.7 The Fan was that the organization plans to target starting pitching and an experienced, defensive-minded middle infielder.
However, the Orioles aren’t going to be writing big checks any time soon, meaning another winter of shopping the clearance racks, attempting to find players just good enough to get through the 2020 season.
We have profiled two potential free agent pitching options the Orioles may target in Trevor Cahill and Robbie Erlin and have more on the way, but if MASN’s Roch Kubatko believes $6 for Ivan Nova is too much, we may have to dig much deeper to find any realistic pitching options for the Orioles.
Let’s step away from the pitching market for a moment and take a look at options who fit the veteran, defense-first middle infield mold that Mike Elias and the Orioles are looking to add this winter.
With Jonathan Villar‘s future in the air, it sounds like the Orioles are looking to have a backup in place, just in case. This also likely means the Elias plans to have Richie Martin start the season in the minor leagues to continue his development. Baltimore struggled on defense last season and having a reliable glove behind this pitching staff could be a large help.
We will look at second base options on Monday, but here are three potential free agent targets at shortstop.
Jose Iglesias- 30 years old
Jose Iglesias isn’t going to instantly make any team a contender, surely not the Baltimore Orioles, but there’s a lot to like about the eight-year veteran and former All-Star, most notably his elite defensive abilities.
Iglesias played in a career-high 146 games this season with the Cincinnati Reds, slashing .288/.318/.407 with 11 home runs (previous career-high was 6), 21 doubles, and 59 RBI. He clearly benefited from the 2019 juiced baseball, but overall, his offensive value was similar to what he’s put up year after year in the big leagues (wRC+ of 84).
He may be a below-average big league hitter who doesn’t walk (3.8% walk rate in 2019, career-high is 5.5%), but he also rarely strikes out. Through 802 games, Iglesias has a career strikeout rate of 12%. Among the nine Orioles players who appeared in at least 100 games, only Hanser Alberto (9.1%) had a strikeout rate lower than 20.9% last season.
Defensively, Iglesias made just nine errors in more than 1,169 innings at shortstop, recording a career-high eight Defensive Runs Saved and a respectable Ultimate Zone Rating of 5.9. Those numbers ranked 9th and 7th among all qualified shortstops in 2019, respectively.
For comparison, Richie Martin was worth -8 Defensive Runs Saved and a -4.2 UZR, while Jonathan Villar was worth 0 DRS and a -1.4 UZR.
Having two guys who keep the ball on the ground and produce some of the weakest contact in the major leagues in Iglesias and Alberto wouldn’t be ideal, but it’s hard to pass on the glove of Iglesias. He signed a minor league deal with the Reds back in February before last season and could possibly be had for the same type of deal, loaded with incentives that could reach his $2.5 million mark in 2019.