Christian Arroyo, one that got away from Tampa Bay

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For a kid growing up near Tampa, it didn’t feel right. The Rays had traded franchise icon Evan Longoria.

But there was another element that didn’t sit quite right with Christian Arroyo on that day in December in 2017: He was one of the players coming back in exchange for the third baseman.

“It was one of those weird moments. You grow up watching the guy, he’s one o your favorite player and then you end up getting traded for him,” said Arroyo, who actually had a Longoria poster on his wall as a kid. “So I had mixed emotions. As a player I was excited because I was coming home to Tampa and going to an exciting young team. But as a fan I was like, ‘Why would you do this. No, this is not fair.’ It’s just one of those learning moments.”

Almost three years later, Arroyo has come along way since that initial business-of-baseball reminder.

The 25-year-old remains a diehard Tampa Bay sports fan, not only rooting on his buddies in this year’s World Series but making the financial commitment that comes with buying Tampa Bay Buccaneers season tickets. But while he is spending these days back near his childhood home, his professional focus lies in Boston.

When it comes to siphoning some of the Rays’ success, Chaim Bloom might have been first for the Red Sox, but Arroyo could be next in line.

The Giants’ first-round pick in 2013 made such a positive impression on the Red Sox after being claimed on waivers by Bloom and Co. that he seems to be firmly in the mix to come Boston’s next second baseman. In his 14 games with the Sox in 2020 he .240 with a .736 OPS, with three of his 12 hits going for home runs. But it was his defensive acumen at second base that allowed to advance the conversation, as Arroyo’s exit interview with the Red Sox brass suggested.

“I had conversations with Chaim when I was in Tampa and I had a conversation when I was in Boston,” Arroyo said during his appearance on the Bradfo Sho podcast. “One of the things he had always said, ‘From the time we traded for you in Tampa we always knew you had the potential and had that everyday player ability.’ It was just kind of the end of the season. It was just kind of like, ‘We saw some things this year where we you were starting to realize your potential and that’s really exciting.’ I felt that way.”

Why things didn’t work out for Arroyo was a combination of things, mostly having to do with injuries. There was the hand. The oblique. The calf. And, finally, the fastball in the side of the head, leading to a concussion.

It all paved the way for the infielder to be dealt at 2019 Trade Deadline to Cleveland, which would put Arroyo on waivers midway through August allowing for the reunion with Bloom.

And while Arroyo has to watch Rays friends play on the stage he had once hoped to join then on, the kid who once lived life with a “Rayhawk” haircut seems to be in a pretty good spot.

“I had a chance to meet Chaim in Tampa and I had just kind of seen even in that little bit of time we had spent around each other in those two years I had seen him, also obviously everyone in the Rays’ front office, they’re good at bringing guys that maybe are in a situation where they aren’t get a chance to play as much. Getting guys and getting them opportunities. It stunk for me because I had a couple of years there where I was hurt. That’s the bottom line.”

As for that Rays fandom? It’s simple.

“I root for my buddies.”