For teams looking for a premier relief arm in free agency, Raisel Iglesias undoubtedly fits the description. He is the best bullpen piece available this offseason, and it may require a $15 million per year commitment to get his signature.
Iglesias will be 32 by the time 2022 spring training rolls, but he remains a strikeout machine. In fact, there are no signs of decline in that area: he has improved his strikeout percentage for three straight seasons, and finished at an extremely impressive 37.7 K% in 2021.
Overall the numbers looked very, very good this past season with the Los Angeles Angels. He finished with a 2.57 ERA, a 2.83 FIP, a 2.30 xFIP, a 2.49 xERA, a 2.06 SIERA, and a minuscule 4.4 percent walk rate. Those numbers translated to a solid 2.0 fWAR in 70 innings for the overpowering righty.
Of course, we can’t just ignore the fact that Iglesias looked very shaky in the early stages of the 2021 campaign. He finished April with a 6.00 ERA in nine innings, and hitters slashed .294/.324/.500 against him. He was a bit better in May, with a 3.00 ERA, but still conceded three homers that month.
Overall, Iglesias had a solid first half, with a 3.46 ERA, and a brilliant performance after the All-Star break, with a 1.27 ERA. He achieved 34 saves for the Halos, but also blew five and allowed 11 homers, which isn’t ideal.
While he is not in the same tier as Josh Hader or Liam Hendricks, Iglesias remains a high-leverage reliever with obscene strikeout power. He ranked 10th in MLB in fWAR, eighth in K/9 with 13.24, and second in swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) with 20.6, behind only Hader. His CSW% (called strike + whiffs percentage) paced the circuit, at 36.8.
All things considered, his new team should know that Iglesias will give up a home run here or there (sometimes, a bit more than that), but he will be a reliable weapon in the back of the bullpen, capable of striking out the side in a stressful moment of the game.
Ben Clemens of FanGraphs projected a three-year, $15 million contract for Iglesias, but some other sources are forecasting at least a four-year deal for the impressive right-hander. High-leverage relievers are highly valued around the league: just ask the Chicago White Sox, a team that had to surrender Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer for a year and a half of Craig Kimbrel at a high price.
Every contender should have Iglesias’ name near the top of their list of potential offseason targets. The Toronto Blue Jays lost a lot of games because of their bullpen, their weak link, and if they are serious about contending in the AL East, an arm like Iglesias sure can’t hurt.
The reigning AL champions, the Houston Astros, are another logical landing spot, especially since they need to replace Kendall Graveman. The Philadelphia Phillies’ bullpen is a mess and they have money to spend, and the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres are always looking to improve their bullpen.
No matter where he lands, and when he signs, Raisel Iglesias should get his money and help a contender solve the late innings.
Andrés Chávez loves the game of baseball and writes about it at Beyond the Box Score, Pinstripe Alley, and other sites. He is on Twitter as @andres_chavez13