ANAHEIM -- The Angels made their biggest move of the offseason, filling a major need by re-signing closer Raisel Iglesias to a four-year, $58 million deal, the club announced on Wednesday night. The contract is backloaded to give the Angels some flexibility, as he’ll make $10 million in 2022 and $16 million each year from 2023-25.
Bringing back Iglesias was a top priority for general manager Perry Minasian this offseason after Iglesias experienced a breakout year with the Angels. And the Angels got their man, even after Iglesias rejected the club’s one-year qualifying offer of $18.4 million on Nov. 17.
"We're really excited," Minasian said. "He was one of our top priorities, if not our top priority."
Iglesias, 31, was one of the best closers in baseball in 2021, tying a career high with 34 saves and posting a 2.57 ERA with 103 strikeouts and just 12 walks allowed in 70 innings. He was named an All-MLB Second Team selection for his efforts.
Iglesias indicated late in the season that he’d be open to a return with the Angels, and both manager Joe Maddon and Minasian said they had interest in bringing Iglesias back. The club didn’t have an obvious in-house solution at closer and Iglesias fits that bill as one of the most consistent closers over the last five years. He has a career 3.06 ERA with 140 saves in 339 career appearances. He pitched with the Reds from 2015-20 before being acquired in a trade last offseason for prospect Leonardo Rivas and reliever Noé Ramirez.
Minasian said he got some help in recruiting Iglesias to return, as Maddon and several players such as Mike Trout and Michael Lorenzen called Iglesias to give him a pitch on why to return to the Angels.
"It was definitely a team effort to get this thing done,” Minasian said. “I appreciate those guys' help on this and couldn't be happier to have him on board."
Iglesias displayed the rare ability to record multi-inning saves, as he tallied eight saves of more than three outs. But with the Angels out of contention in September, they limited him to one-inning stints down the stretch with free agency looming. Iglesias appreciated the gesture and it likely helped the Angels’ chances of signing him.
“I think his experience here with this group last year and the environment that was created and just the fan base, the comfort level with the organization, I think that carried a lot of weight,” Minasian said. “And I'm proud of that.”
Iglesias also agreed to backload his contract, which will allow the Angels to make more additions this offseason. Their current payroll is projected to be around $172 million, which is roughly $8-10 million lower than last year. Minasian hasn’t said if the payroll will go higher than last year, but considering the club is still looking for more pitching help and possibly a shortstop, it seems likely to be higher. Outfielder Justin Upton is set to make $28 million in 2022 but his contract expires after the season.
"Structure-wise, it made sense for us with where we're at,” Minasian said. “Competition-wise, it was fierce. He's one of the more talented guys out there. We felt like he's one of the better pitchers, not just relievers, but overall pitchers in the game.”
Minasian added that he likes the makeup of the back end of the bullpen after also signing veteran lefty Aaron Loup to a two-year deal worth $17 million. Loup, who posted a 0.95 ERA in 56 2/3 innings with the Mets last year, figures to be the club’s primary setup reliever ahead of Iglesias.
"Those are two big pieces in the back end of the 'pen,” Minasian said. “Versatile pieces that can go more than an inning. And I think that's important. We saw that last year with Raisel. And I think Aaron has the ability and has done that with multiple-inning appearances."