The Tigers announced Friday that infielder Niko Goodrum went unclaimed on outright waivers and has elected free agency. Detroit also passed righty Nivaldo Rodriguez and outfielder Jacob Robson through waivers unclaimed, though they’ll both remain with the organization after being outrighted to Triple-A. (Unlike Goodrum, they did not have the service time needed to reject an outright assignment and elect free agency.)
Goodrum, 29, looked like a minor league free-agent steal a few years ago when he signed in Detroit and hit .245/.315/.432 with 16 homers and a dozen steals while playing every position other than catcher, center field and pitcher. He matched those solid 2018 numbers in near-identical fashion in 2019, improving his glovework at shortstop in the process and looking like at least a useful utility piece — if not a possible everyday shortstop.
Unfortunately for both Goodrum and the Tigers, the switch-hitter’s bat tumbled in 2020 and wasn’t able to recover this past season. Over the past two years, Goodrum has managed just a .203/.282/.350 batting line, while his strikeout rate has skyrocketed from 28% to 34.9%. Goodrum can still play all over the diamond and still has a decent blend of power and speed, but his mounting issues making contact and a projected $2.9MM arbitration salary prompted Detroit to effectively non-tender him.
Joining the 40-man roster are the power-armed De Jesus and the 25-year-old Clemens — the son of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens. De Jesus, 24, split the 2021 season between Double-A and Triple-A, compiling a 3.34 ERA with a big 29.1% strikeout rate in 64 innings (primarily out of the bullpen). De Jesus kept the ball on the ground at an above-average rate as well, though his 13.5% walk rate is obviously somewhat problematic.
Clemens is the more highly regarded of today’s additions, ranking between 18th and 26th among Tigers prospects at MLB.com, Baseball America and FanGraphs. He played in 97 games (413 plate appearances) and logged a .247/.312/.466 output with 18 homers, 15 doubles and six triples. He’s primarily been a second baseman, though some scouting reports peg him as more of an offensive-minded utility player — assuming he can continue to improve his contact skills.
The 24-year-old Rodriguez was claimed off waivers out of the Astros organization back in August, and while he fared well in 7 1/3 MLB frames, that wasn’t the case in Triple-A: 5.37 ERA, 44-to-28 K/BB ratio in 62 innings. Robson, 26, was an eighth-round pick by the Tigers in 2016. He went hitless in seven at-bats during his MLB debut this year and posted a .259/.385/.389 batting line in 78 Triple-A games.