Brian Goodwin is a former 1st round pick, former Top 100 overall prospect, and can play all three outfield positions with reasonably decent ability. He’s only once truly been given the chance to be a mostly everyday player, and that came just recently in 2019 - and in that chance, he responded with a solid .796 OPS, 108 OPS+, and 17 dingers in 136 games for the Los Angeles Angels.
There was enough to Goodwin that when the Cincinnati Reds moved promising lefty Packy Naughton to acquire him in the middle of 2020, we hardly batted an eye. He’d provide great depth and versatility to an outfield that was sputtering (or absent altogether) at the time, and do so with team control in both 2021 and 2022 also in the cards. So, as Wednesday’s deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players inches near, why exactly are we even having a conversation about whether Goodwin will get cut loose by the Reds?
Well, there are several factors that are at play, but the single biggest one is the obvious. It’s a money problem.
It’s not even just a Reds money problem, either. With revenues dried up due to the pandemic-induced austerity of the 2020 season, the expectation is that teams are going to be cutting bait with peripheral players left and right ahead of this deadline. And while Goodwin’s projected arb2 salary of $2.7 million is hardly outlandish in today’s game, he might end up a luxury item the Reds choose against paying for.
Not necessarily because he’s not worth that much at this stage of his career given what we knew about the baseball landscape prior to the last 9 months, but because there will be a flood of cheaper, more available options on the open market instead. Whereas Goodwin would’ve had a decent bit of trade value this time a year ago, it’s hard to envision the Reds being able to get anything for him this winter if, as expected, other teams begin to trim their rosters of players similarly valued to him at the moment.
That’s where we get into the non-money factors at play here, by the way. When the Reds acquired Goodwin this summer, they did so under circumstances that aren’t on the table anymore. There was a Designated Hitter allowed for all National League teams at the time, though for now that’s not going to be available for the 2021 season (barring a change). On top of that, rosters were expanded to 28 players for the 2020 season, but will be scaled back to just 26 for the 2021 season, making it a numbers-crunch for roster spots that wasn’t the case just last season.
On top of that, there’s the bottom line of what Goodwin brought to the table once picked up by the Reds. After hitting a solid .242/.330/.463 (116 OPS+) in 30 games to begin the 2020 season with Los Angeles, he hit just .163/.236/.327 in 20 games with the Reds. Granted, he moved from a regular role to more of a bench/utility role once acquired by Cincinnati, and the irregularity of his playing time might well be to blame for his dip in production, but given the glut of outfield options still on the Reds roster, there’s no guarantee that role would change heading into 2021. On top of that, Goodwin is out of options, so the Reds can’t simply stash him in AAA while the likes of Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel, and Aristides Aquino (who is also out of options) get playing time ahead of him.
In many other years, we’d be spending Novembers talking about Goodwin as a key cog of the regular Reds outfield. Unfortunately for him, though, that’s not necessarily the case this time around, and at some $2.7 million in salary for 2021, that’s a bit of a steep price to pay for a player who doesn’t project to get a ton of playing time, even if he’s got quality aspects to his game.
There’s obviously still a non-zero chance the Reds do choose to tender him a contract now and try to sort things out before the season starts, however. If they’re willing to stomach the finances and the risk, there’s certainly a chance the right deal opens up later this winter and the Reds can move him for something. There’s also the chance the Reds are looking to move one of those outfielders mentioned above in some other trade this winter, too, which would make having Goodwin around a very nice insurance policy.
In many ways, we might get a good glimpse at the larger plans the Reds have for their offseason with their decision about Goodwin at Wednesday’s deadline. We’ve already heard scuttlebutt about them swinging for the fences to land a shortstop this winter, and perhaps dealing from their current outfield glut will be a part of that process. Or, like many other clubs, the Reds might choose to shed as many salary obligations as they can right now, wait until to see how the pandemic plays out over the next few months, and try to sort it out in February once they’ve got a bit more knowledge about the 2021 landscape. If so, that could well mean we’ve seen the last of Goodwin in a Reds uniform.