How Red Sox’ latest cheap endeavor could carve out a role in 2023

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: Niko Goodrum #11 of the Houston Astros takes a swing during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on May 14, 2022 in Washington DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: Niko Goodrum #11 of the Houston Astros takes a swing during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on May 14, 2022 in Washington DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

How Niko Goodrum could fit on the Boston Red Sox roster

Fans spent most of the offseason begging the Boston Red Sox to sign a 30-year-old who can play shortstop.

Technically, they delivered.

According to FanSided’s Robert Murray, free-agent utilityman Niko Goodrum is in agreement with the Sox on a minor-league contract.

The journeyman is joining his fourth team in seven seasons, after a brief stint with the Houston Astros in 2022. His time was brief, and his production abysmal: .116/.156/.163 with a pair of doubles and one RBI in 15 games.

There isn’t much to take away from such a small sample size, but his career metrics aren’t exactly inspiring. Goodrum is a career .226 hitter with a .688 OPS. Even in his best years, the batting average never reached .250 and he’s always remained below a .750 OPS.

Goodrum has the type of versatility the Sox crave, having spent time at every position on the diamond aside from pitcher and catcher. Does he bring a solid glove to each of those positions? Not really, considering he owns a negative rating in Defensive Runs Saved for his career at every position, but he is capable of handling most positions at an almost average level.

So what do the Red Sox see in Goodrum? Is this just the latest example of Chaim Bloom dumpster diving for a flawed player because the Red Sox are too cheap to spend on real talent?

For starters, let’s reiterate that this is a minor-league deal. There’s no guarantee that Goodrum ever plays in Boston and there’s essentially no risk in taking a shot on a former second-round pick who flashed some potential at times earlier in his career.

That being said, it isn’t far-fetched to envision Goodrum carving out a role with the Red Sox next season.

The switch-hitter has always struggled to reach the Mendoza Line against right-handed pitching but he owns a .303 average with a .816 OPS for his career against lefties. That could make him valuable to a Red Sox lineup that is heavy on left-handed bats.

With the expectation that the majority of his plate appearances would be from the right side of the plate against southpaws, Goodrum could take aim at the towering green wall in Fenway Park’s left field. He hasn’t shown much power throughout his career but he did smack 29 doubles in 2018 and tallied 27 the following season. He shouldn’t receive nearly enough playing time to replicate those totals, but targeting the Green Monster could set him back on a similar pace.

As a utilityman who fares better against lefties, Goodrum fills a role similar to Christian Arroyo. That could mean Goodrum was signed as insurance for Arroyo, who has battled his fair share of injuries and has appeared in fewer than 90 games in every season of his career.

The Red Sox might end up relying on Arroyo as their regular second baseman, assuming Trevor Story slides back to shortstop with the departure of Xander Bogaerts. Unless the Red Sox sign or trade for another second baseman, or add a center fielder so that Kiké Hernández can move to second, Arroyo appears poised for a starting role. That’s obviously not ideal so we expect the Red Sox to explore every option to upgrade those positions. Unfortunately, we’ve learned the hard way that claiming they want to do something hardly ensures this front office is capable of getting it done.

If Arroyo ends up locked into a starting role, Goodrum emerges as a candidate to fill his role as the versatile fielder on the bench who can produce against left-handed pitching.

Boston should still be looking at other options that can provide a more significant upgrade but that doesn’t mean they will stop searching for value. Most of these moves to add fringe players to minor league deals don’t pan out but there’s always the chance that they find a diamond in the rough and there’s virtually no risk in taking that chance.

It’s not flashy but there is a path to Goodrum playing a meaningful role for this team.