Detroit — Told his four-RBI night Saturday was the second of his career, Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias seemed genuinely surprised.
“Really?” he said. “I did it before? Cool.”
Iglesias is playing some of his best baseball since the Tigers acquired him in 2013 — both in the field and at the plate. He had a pair of clutch, two-out, two-run hits Saturday, a double and his third homer of the year, helping the Tigers break out of an offensive funk that included a major league-high 13th shutout Friday.
“I feel like I am in the prime of my career,” he said Sunday. “Physically and mentally, and I think that helps a lot.”
Iglesias is 28 and in a contract year. He will be a free agent this winter and, as good as he’s been, he’s not in the Tigers’ future plans. That’s was clear as far back as 2016 when the Tigers put him on the trade market and essentially kept him there.
There weren’t a lot of suitors the last two seasons, but recently there have been rumblings that the Brewers and Phillies might have some interest.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I’m not thinking about it, here and there,” Iglesias said. “But I have fun with this group. I have fun with this coaching staff. I enjoy it here. That is my mindset — just enjoy these guys. It’s out of my hands.”
The idea of playing for a contender, playing with a postseason berth at stake in August and September is appealing to him, of course. Especially in a contract year, where playing meaningful games can help raise his profile.
“Absolutely,” he said. “But at the same time, we just have to see what happens. It’s a very tricky situation. I feel comfortable here. I’ve been here six years. But, if something happens, we’ll make adjustments. We’ll figure it out.”
For Iglesias to be hitting .269 right now, with the second-highest slugging percentage of his career (.385) and a major-league best 37 RBIs from the No. 8 spot in the batting order, is remarkable, given how awful his season started.
He poked an RBI double in his first at-bat of the season, then went 16 straight at-bats without a hit. After he got his second hit of the season, he went empty in 19 more at-bats.
On April 13, he was 2-for-35.
“Early in the season, it was cold and I wasn’t being the type of hitter I am,” Iglesias said. “We have a great hitting coach in Lloyd McClendon and we got back to basic stuff. You’ve got to do it. It doesn’t matter how good a hitter you are, at some point you have to go back to basics.”
Iglesias insists he wasn’t feeling the pressure of trying to make a contract drive.
“That wasn’t it,” he said. “In this game, you have to start out with a crawl, then you walk and then you run. I guess I tried to run right away and I ended up crawling.”
Iglesias, who has played 94 of the Tigers’ 100 games, second only to Nick Castellanos (96), was back in the lineup Sunday against Red Sox All-Star Chris Sale. Iglesias has hit Sale well over the years — 11-for-32 (.344) with two doubles and a home run.
“You know, I was traded six years ago,” he said. “It’s something you kind of get excited about, just to see what’s going to happen — either I’m staying or leaving or whatever. Who knows? That’s the front office’s decision.
“I just want to come here every day and enjoy this group. That’s pretty much what I am doing.”
If Iglesias were to be traded, the Tigers would have a sizable void at shortstop for at least a year or two, while prospect Sergio Alcantara develops. Perhaps either Dixon Machado or Pete Kozma would be brought back from Toledo (their contracts would have to be purchased and added to the 40-man roster). Perhaps the Tigers try to get by with utility players Ronny Rodriguez or Niko Goodrum in the interim.
Or, perhaps they go outside the organization and acquire a low-cost veteran.
Whichever way they go, Iglesias’ unique defensive brilliance will be greatly missed.