The Red Sox announced that utility player Niko Goodrum will be a non-roster invitee for their upcoming Spring Training. Prior to the official announcement, Robert Murray of FanSided reported Goodrum had joined the organization on a minor league deal.
Goodrum, 31 in February, seemed to establish himself as a useful player with the Tigers in 2018 and 2019, hitting around league average but adding some defensive versatility and speed. Over that two-year stretch, he hit 28 home runs and stole 24 bases, producing a batting line of .247/.318/.427. That period included the “juiced ball” season of 2019, so that production was actually just below league average, with Goodrum having a 98 wRC+ for that two-year timeframe. He also struck out in 28% of his plate appearances, but was still a useful piece with that average-ish bat and defensive versatility, playing every infield and outfield position.
Unfortunately, he’s been on a downward trajectory since that time. He slid to .184/.263/.335 in the next year for a wRC+ of 63, though that could have been written off as an anomaly of the pandemic-shortened year. He rebounded in 2021, but only slightly, finishing that season at .214/.292/.359, 81 wRC+. He also saw his strikeouts become even more of an issue, jumping to 38.5% in 2020 and 32.9% a year later.
That was disappointing enough for the Tigers to move on, non-tendering Goodrum prior to the 2022 season. The Astros decided to take a flier on a bounceback, signing him for one year and $2.1MM. But things went from bad to worse in Houston, with Goodrum striking out 51.1% of the time in a small sample of 45 plate appearances and hitting just .116/.156/.163. The Astros optioned him to the farm but he got injured down there and only played 20 minor league games. He was designated for assignment and released as the season was winding down.
Like the Astros did a year ago, the Red Sox will now take a chance on Goodrum and hope for a return to form. In this case, it’s essentially a no-risk move for Boston since it’s a minor league deal and they haven’t committed a roster spot to him. They have some uncertainty in their position player mix at the moment with the departure of Xander Bogaerts. It seems like Trevor Story will move to take over shortstop, leaving second base for Christian Arroyo. They have some options who could serve as bench infielders, with Enmanuel Valdez and David Hamilton on the 40-man roster. However, they were both just added in November and neither has any MLB experience. Goodrum’s signing adds a more seasoned option into the mix.
If Goodrum can get back on track and earn his way onto the roster, he’ll be able to be controlled beyond this season. He has over four years of MLB service time and could be retained via arbitration until he gets over the six-year mark. He also has a couple of option years remaining, though players with over five years of MLB service cannot be optioned without their consent. Goodrum is at 4.069 and could cross that threshold this season, with a “year” being flipped at the 172-day mark.