Last offseason, the Twins made the decision to move Jorge Polanco to second base. They wanted better defense at the shortstop position. With that in mind, the Twins signed Andrelton Simmons to a one-year deal. It didn’t go well. While Simmons provided the solid defense, he did very little with the bat. His .558 OPS was over .100 lower than it had been in all but one of his previous nine MLB seasons. His previous low was .617 in 2014. Even after his rough 2021 season, his career OPS of .683 should make the Twins consider bringing him back on a much lower contract, maybe in the $3 million range.
courtesy Byron Buxton Instagram
However, there was a shortstop that became available due to Friday’s roster transactions. One would be a player returning to the organization that he spent nearly a decade in and made his big-league debut with. Let’s discuss both, and then in the comments you can tell me if this player should be considered.
But before that, I want to point out that my personal opinion is that the Twins need to spend available dollars this offseason on pitching. So while I would love to see the Twins grab one of those big-name, big-dollar free agent shortstops, I’m going to assume that they won’t and that they will spend big on pitching. (maybe not a fair assumption, but one that I will go with for this article.)
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Niko Goodrum was projected to make $2.9 million in 2022 through arbitration. He wasn’t going to get that coming off of an injury-plagued 2021 season in which he hit just .214/.292/.359 (.651) with 11 doubles and nine home runs. He had several stints on the Injured List with calf and groin injuries.
In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, he hit just .184/.263/.335 (.598) with seven doubles and five home runs. These two seasons have been rough for Goodrum offensively, no doubt, but still 10-20% better than what Simmons provided in 2021.
That’s obviously a low bar. So why would I personally be interested in bringing Goodrum back to the organization where he debuted in 2017 and went 1-for-17 (.059) in September.
He signed with the Tigers and had two really strong seasons. In 2018, he hit .245/.315/.432 (.749) with 29 doubles and 16 homers. In 2019, he hit .248/.322/.421 (.743) with 27 doubles, five triples and 12 homers. He stole 12 bases in 2018 and 2019, and 14 bases in 2021.
Goodrum will turn 30 early in spring training 2022. While the upside may be somewhat limited and include a lot of swing-and more,, there is also great athleticism, tools, speed and power with Goodrum.
The Twins drafted and signed Cartier “Niko” Goodrum out of high school in Georgia in 2010. Jorge Polanco had signed a year earlier. The two climbed up the organization ladder together. Goodrum played mostly shortstop while Polanco played shortstop. Could the keystone combination exist again?
In 2020, Goodrum was a finalist for an AL Gold Glove at shortstop. He is a natural shortstop with good range and a strong arm. If the Twins signed him and told him to prepare to compete for the team’s starting shortstop job, he might be a terrific choice. Hey, if the other choices right now include a return of Simmons, then I would certainly support giving Goodrum a shot.
What would it cost? I would think a one-year, $1.5 to $2.0 million would do it, especially if he was given the opportunity to start most days at shortstop. If he’s given an opportunity to start most every day at shortstop, it’s likely he would just want a one year deal, hope it goes well, and enter free agency again after the 2022 season when it isn’t the greatest free agent shortstop class ever.
Because of the dollars, it would be a low-risk deal. Because of his defense, speed and power potential, there is a chance for reward. If it doesn’t go well, he can finish the year as a utility player, capable of playing seven positions (yes, all better than Willians Astudillo). If Royce Lewis is deemed ready-to-go sometime in 2021, Goodrum can become a utility player.
In addition, Goodrum might have interest in a return because he has several former teammates from his minor league days with the. He played over his years with Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Tyler Duffey, Taylor Rogers, and Tommy Watkins was a coach and manager.
An added bonus is that Goodrum has always been great in the community, going back to his Twins days when he was a Harmon Killebrew Community Service Award recipient in 2013 with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
Many times the concept of “Bring Back the Gang” gets a negative connotation. Sometimes that is fair. Other times, it just makes sense. If healthy, Niko Goodrum can provide really good defense at shortstop, some power at the plate and speed. Yes, that comes with some injury risk and a lot of strikeouts. But at the price tag, it is certainly worth strong consideration.
So what do you think? Should the Twins consider a reunion with Niko Goodrum?