Iglesias eager to slide into Rockies SS hole left by Story

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Needing to fill a shortstop hole, the Colorado Rockies think they’ve got a smooth fit with José Iglesias.

Iglesias signed a one-year, $5 million contract to step in for franchise fixture Trevor Story, an addition made with an eye toward extending the Rockies’ defensive prowess in the middle infield.

“He brings a track record of being a true major league-performing shortstop,” Colorado manager Bud Black said.

“Great defender. And there have been times with the bat he has been productive. At times on offense, it has been sneaky good, sneaky productive,” he said.

Story is a free agent and hasn’t yet signed with a team.

The 32-year-old Iglesias hit .271 with 27 doubles, nine homers and 48 RBIs in 2021, playing 114 games with the Los Angeles Angels before joining Boston during the September stretch.

Iglesias committed a career-high 16 errors with the Angels, but the Rockies consider that a minor blip for a player who committed more than 10 errors in only one of his previous seven full seasons.

“At the end of the day, you have to know who you are, what you are good at and what you are not,” Iglesias said. “The only thing you can control is effort level. For me, it is going to be up there every single night.”

Iglesias led AL shortstops in fielding percentage with Detroit in 2016 and 2017.

“We’re right up there among the league leaders, if not the league leader, in ground-ball rate,” Black said.

Colorado top starter German Márquez was second in the National League with a ground-ball ratio of 1.75:1.

“So we need defense,” Black said. “We’ve had that over the years here, which has been a big part of our success when we’ve had good seasons. Especially infield defense. I think we are going to be fine there, too, with him and ‘Mac’ (third baseman Ryan McMahon).”

“‘Mac’ was awesome last year,” he said.

Newcomer Kris Bryant, who agreed this week to a seven-year, $182 million free agent contract, is projected to be the regular left fielder, Black said Thursday.

Bryant also could see time at the corner infield spots, Black added, creating flexibility. McMahon also has played second base.

Iglesias averages only 26 walks a season, but since 2015 he has averaged one strikeout per 8.45 plate appearances, which is the seventh-lowest ratio in the major leagues.

“Making contact should be a big part of everybody, because when you put the ball in play good things happen,” Iglesias said.

“You might not necessarily get the results you want, but the guy can make an error and you can get on base for your next teammate. It’s definitely a great thing to have,” he said.

Iglesias hit .373 with 17 doubles and 24 RBIs with Baltimore in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the highest batting average among players with at least 150 plate appearances. He had 150.

He was an All-Star with Detroit in 2015, when he hit .300.

“When I started my career, the defense was basically the only one present,” Iglesias said.

“Later on, the offense kicked it. It takes time. I feel like a complete player these days. I just take it one day at a time. It is a good mix of experience and age and everything,” he said.

Iglesias likely will hit lower in the order, at least early in the season, Black said.

“There has been a little variability and some streakiness (offensively), but this guy knows how to play. He has great instincts,” he said.

The fact that the Rockies made a strong play to acquire him made an impression on Iglesias, who said he has been impressed by what he saw playing against them.

“This is a very talented young team. It is,” he said. “I feel like this group is very easy to talk to, and that is a great starting point.”

“A lot of talent, man. I see that around here,” he said.

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