Tomase: Bloom stole Arroyo for nothing, and Red Sox are reaping reward originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The one-line agate announcement barely caused a ripple last summer when the Red Sox claimed infielder Christian Arroyo off waivers from the Indians, who had designated him for assignment.
Arroyo was a former first-round pick who had fallen on hard times. In a game obsessed with launch angle, he merely produced contact. Though listed as a shortstop, limited range made him a better fit at second base. The Red Sox represented his fourth club in seven years.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom knew Arroyo from their days in Tampa. The Rays brought the Florida native back to his hometown team as part of the Evan Longoria blockbuster with the Giants in 2017, but Arroyo never hit much in limited action.
When the Red Sox acquired him, he owned a lifetime average of just .215 in 251 plate appearances spread over four seasons. There was no reason to view him as anything more than a flyer.
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Not even a year later, Arroyo has stealthily emerged as one of the key supporting players on a club with unexpected postseason aspirations. In Thursday night’s wild 12-8 victory over the Astros, Arroyo delivered the key blow, a game-tying three-run homer to left over everything in the fifth inning.
That swing helped the Red Sox avoid a sweep, and it once again shined a spotlight on the unlikely contributions the Red Sox have received from a 26-year-old who certainly put in his time before finding a home.
“I think that it was pretty sweet to be able to do that,” Arroyo said. “That’s my first Fenway homer in front of fans, so it was pretty awesome. I’m an emotional player when it comes to that stuff, I love to win. I hit it, I saw it and at that point that I knew it was out, I kind of just blacked out a little bit.”
Arroyo’s emergence has allowed the club to install him at second base and move the presumed starter there, Kiké Hernández, to center field, where the Red Sox had a hole in the absence of former Gold Glover Jackie Bradley Jr.
It also turns out that the team’s new-look offensive approach perfectly fits Arroyo’s skillset. Manager Alex Cora has preached contact and hitting the ball up the middle and the other way, and those are some of the abilities that got Arroyo drafted 25th overall in 2013 out of Hernando High School in Brooksville, Florida.
He consistently earned top-100 prospect status on the strength of his bat-to-ball skills in the minors, where he hit .292 with a .773 OPS. The Giants envisioned him as their starting second baseman and No. 2 hitter, but when they called him up at age 22 in 2017, he wasn’t ready, batting just .192 in 135 plate appearances.
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The move to Tampa a few months later stalled him behind a glut of middle infield prospects, and he was dealt to the Indians in 2019 for a second-tier prospect and international bonus money.
When that didn’t work out, the Red Sox gave him a chance in August, based not just on Bloom’s familiarity, but a strong report from pro scout Blair Henry and the backing of Joe McDonald and the analytics department. The Red Sox sent Arroyo to the alternate site to tweak his swing mechanics before promoting him in September. He hit .240 with three home runs in 14 game and then won a spot on the opening day roster this year after beating out Michael Chavis in a spirited spring training duel.
On a Red Sox club desperate for offense outside of its big four hitters, Arroyo has been a standout, hitting .284 with a .348 on base percentage while making seven starts in the leadoff spot.
Not bad for a guy considered a castoff by three organizations who’s now hitting game-saving homers for a contender.
“I went in there with a plan, I was fortunate enough to execute my plan and fortunate enough for it to work out,” Arroyo said. “If I had gone in there and hit a line drive to left field and the left fielder catches it, I mean, what can you do? To say that I was excited was probably an understatement.”