Former Red Sox pitcher traded by Angels for Raisel Iglesias

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 16: Raisel Iglesias #26 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch in the 1-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on September 16, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 16: Raisel Iglesias #26 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch in the 1-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on September 16, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

A former Red Sox reliever was involved in a trade for Raisel Iglesias

The first trade of this year’s virtual Winter Meetings didn’t involve the Boston Red Sox directly but it did include one of their former pitchers and a closer who was once rumored to be a trade target of theirs. It also gives us an idea of what the trade market for a closer might look like this winter if the Red Sox go that route to upgrade their own bullpen.

The Cincinnati Reds announced that they have acquired Noe Ramirez and a player to be named later from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Raisel Iglesias and cash considerations.

Iglesias has proven himself as a reliable option to close out the ninth inning. From 2016-2018, he owned a 2.47 ERA and 10.1 K/9 while converting 64 of 72 save opportunities (88.8 percent).

Iglesias hit a rough patch in 2019 when he posted a 4.16 ERA and was tagged with 12 losses, a staggering total for a reliever. However, he still converted 34 of 40 save opportunities. He also posted a career-high 12.0 K/9 and lowered his walk rate to 2.8 BB/9 that season.

He bounced back in the shortened 2020 season, producing a 2.74 ERA in 23 innings while setting a career-high 6.20 K/BB ratio and converting eight of 10 save opportunities.

The trade is a bit surprising from the Cincinnati side. Iglesias is entering the final season of the 3-year, $24.1 million contract he signed in 2018. He’s owed $9.125 million in 2021 before hitting free agency so the Reds clear some payroll space and acquire an asset for a pitcher they clearly weren’t intending to re-sign. Trading Iglesias isn’t unexpected, it’s the underwhelming return that has many scratching their heads.

Ramirez was selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He was never considered a top prospect prior to debuting as a reliever in 2015. Ramirez posted a 4.99 ERA in 33 relief appearances spread over parts of three seasons in Boston before he was designated for assignment in August of 2017.

He latched on with the Angels down the stretch and produced moderately better results when given the chance but was never more than a mediocre middle reliever or spot starter.

Ramirez posted a solid 3.00 ERA in 21 innings this year but his 4.52 FIP was nearly identical to his career rate while his 6.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 were both trending in the wrong direction.

Unless that “player to be named later” unexpectedly turns out to be a valuable prospect, this is a disappointing return for the Reds. They are essentially downgrading from their closer to a moderately successful middle reliever in order to save money and gain two more years of control. Ramirez is projected for only about $1 million in arbitration and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season.

The Red Sox are in need of a closer since Matt Barnes clearly isn’t the solution and Iglesias had been linked to Boston in trade rumors for years. While we don’t know if the current front office regime made an effort to pry him away from the Reds before the Angels swooped in, they certainly should have had him on the radar if the asking price was this reasonable.

The deal the Angels made tells us a couple of things about the market for top-tier relievers. For one, if another closer is put on the trading block then that club shouldn’t expect much more than what the Reds received unless that pitcher is significantly cheaper or has multiple years of control remaining – in which case they aren’t likely to be traded.

If the underwhelming return that the Reds received was partially due to Iglesias’ salary, that doesn’t bode well for the closers testing free agency this winter. The market is saturated with relief pitchers, most of whom aren’t in the same class as Iglesias. If the Reds had to dump him for a mediocre middle reliever plus send cash to Los Angeles in the deal, it’s clear that even a proven option as desirable as Iglesias isn’t valued as being worth north of $9 million under the current market conditions.

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The Red Sox missed out on Iglesias but they probably prefer a closer who is under control for more than a year since it’s not realistic to assume they will jump into the elite class of contenders in 2021. Boston should be able to find a suitable option in free agency who provides a better value. They could also explore the trade market for the next option who could be available without surrendering one of their better prospects.