Detroit Tigers year in review: A decision looms on Niko Goodrum

ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 18: Niko Goodrum #28 of the Detroit Tigers awaits the play during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 18, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 18: Niko Goodrum #28 of the Detroit Tigers awaits the play during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 18, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /
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A decision remains on whether Niko Goodrum will maintain the super-utility stable for the Detroit Tigers in 2022

Detroit Tigers utilityman Niko Goodrum might be looking for a new organization as early as this offseason after a 2021 season in which he graded out right around replacement level.

Goodrum has been the longstanding do-it-all player on the roster and delivered on his versatility again this year; playing five different positions. Let’s dive deeper into his background, his season, and his future.

Who is Niko Goodrum?

Goodrum was perhaps one of the first crafty finds by GM Al Avila. A second-round pick with the Twins organization, Goodrum worked his way through the minor leagues and played 11 games for the big league club in 2017 during his age-25 season. The Twins would outright him in the subsequent offseason and the switch-hitting infielder would ultimately elect free agency.

Goodrum was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a minor league free agent but made the club in 2018 and has been a mainstay since. Goodrum finished his fourth season with the Detroit Tigers. He’s due an estimated $2.9 million in arbitration this winter according to Fangraphs and will become a free agent after the 2022 season.

Niko Goodrum in 2021

As mentioned above, Goodrum was right around a replacement-level player according to Fangraphs (0.0 WAR) and Baseball-Reference (-0.2).

Goodrum

was largely banged up during the season despite being able to turn in a 90-game campaign. A finger injury, calf contusion, and groin strain all yielded separate IL trips and ultimately rehab stints for the Toledo Mud Hens; 14 games in total for them.

Goodrum’s speed aligned well with the aggressive brand of baseball the Detroit Tigers were playing down the stretch. In total, he would amass 14 stolen bases and his sprint speed ranked in the 85th percentile in the majors, according to

Statcast

.

Swing-and-miss continued to be part of his game this season as well, unfortunately. Goodrum’s strikeout rate was above 29 percent for the third consecutive season; a number that only becomes palatable if it’s matched with prodigious power.

He also continued to show his trend of a high average from the right side with more power from the left. As a lefty, Goodrum slashed .185/.263/.344 in 217 plate appearances with 7 home runs. As a right-handed batter, he hit .274/.352/.389 but just 2 homers in 108 plate appearances; about half the rate of his left-handed power pace.

Niko Goodrum’s 2021 stats

Niko Goodrum’s Future

I wrote toward the end of the year about how I felt the Detroit Tigers had too many utility players and thought they were holding an open and public tryout at the end of this season to see who would be their guy come 2022. Spring Training has to happen, of course, but decisions need to be made before then on players like Niko Goodrum.

Given his limited role and the influx of guys they currently have that can play multiple spots (Harold Castro, Zack Short, Willi Castro, Isaac Paredes), it is fair to wonder if paying a 30-year-old $3 million in his final season coming off a banged-up and comparatively unproductive year would be more fruitful than one of the above players at the league minimum.

December 1st is the MLB non-tender deadline.

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