en English
en Englishes Spanishpt Portuguesear Arabicht Haitian Creolezh-TW Chinese (Traditional)


Your Local Online News Source for Over 3 Decades

What Fires Us Up

“The Old Sachem,” Bill Stewart
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  Under Chaim Bloom the Red Sox finished last in the AL East in 2020. He was hired though, to build a strong farm system and to keep the Sox competitive each year. How has he done? He has moved the farm system from one of the worst to one of the tops in the majors. He got Jarren Duran and Garrett Whitlock in the draft. Chaim selected Tanner Houck, and he and Duran have gone back and forth to Worcester, brought up when the Sox needed another pitcher or outfielder. He also signed Hirokazu Sawamura from the Chiba Lotte Marines in 2020; Sawamura had previously played for the Yomiuri Giants, both teams in the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan. Both Whitlock and Sawamura have contributed mightily to the Red Sox this season. Duran and Houck need more minor league experience to stay on the Sox roster. Ok, so this team did not win the World Series. Their end-of-season grit brought Boston fans alive, and now we look forward to next season with a team capable of making and even winning the World Series.

  But this article is more concerned with Enrique “Kike” (a Spanish nickname) Hernández, Hunter Renfroe, Alex Verdugo, Christian Arroyo and Kyle Schwarber whom Bloom traded for, to add power and defense to the Sox.

  I think Kike Hernández is the best addition that Bloom acquired. Kike has played every position except catcher in the major leagues after being selected in 2014 by the Houston Astros. He was traded to the Miami Marlins that same year, traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 and played there until February 2, 2021, when he was traded to the Red Sox. His father was a scout for the Pirates in Puerto Rico, and Kike started playing baseball at six years old, later doing international youth tournaments in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. He attended the American Military Academy in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Kike hit a game-tying home solo run in game seven of the NL Championship series in 2020; in the series he had two home runs with four hits. Hernández signed a two-year contract in 2021 for 14 million and has earned every dollar of it. On October 11, 2021, he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in game four of the American League Division Series to advance the Red Sox to the American League Championship series.

  Dustin Hunter Renfroe came to the Sox through a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 2013 draft, 13th overall. He was assigned to the Eugene Emeralds of Class-A, then upped to the Fort Wayne TinCaps. His development continued through Class AA Texas League, the Arizona Fall League and the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. He was up and down with the Padres in 2016 and was on the starting roster for 2017. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019, then in 2020 to the Red Sox. Renfroe was a scholarship baseball player at Mississippi State University. In the summers of 2011 and 2012 he played for the Bethesda Big Train of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, where he broke the records for runs, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage and total bases. The Red Sox selected him in the 2010 draft, but he decided to not sign and went to Mississippi State. He has become a gifted right fielder for the Sox and a clutch batter in the playoffs this year.

  Alexander Brady Verdugo played for Sahuaro High School in Tucson, Arizona, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 2014 MLB draft. He was awarded a baseball scholarship to Arizona State University, but decided instead to pursue a professional baseball career. He started with the Class A Arizona League Dodgers, where he received All-Star honors and Rookie League honors. In 2015 he was with the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League – again receiving All-Star selection. His next assignment was with the Cucamonga Quakes of the California League. He was promoted to the Double-A Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League in 2016. He also played for the Mexico national baseball team in an exhibition series in Japan in 2016. He was chosen to play for the world team at the All-Star Futures game in 2017. The Dodgers moved him up to the majors and he became the starting center fielder. He hit his first MLB home run on September 10, 2017, against Adam Ottavino of the Colorado Rockies. Adam is now also with the Red Sox. Verdugo was up and down to Triple-A during 2018 then was the starter for the Dodgers on opening day 2019. In 106 games, he batted .294 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs. He was traded to Boston on February 10, 2020, along with Jeter Downs and Connor Wong, the latter two playing for Worcester. “Mookie” Betts went to the Dodgers. In 2020 – playing all three outfield positions – in 53 games he batted .308, hit six homers and had 15 RBIs. He has contributed on a grand scale for the 2021 Sox.

  Christian Israel Arroyo is the son of a 20-year U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran of Puerto Rican descent. He grew up as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays while attending Hernando High School in Brooksville, Florida. He played in the 2013 18U U.S. national baseball team that won the World Cup and was MVP of the tournament as the United States won gold. Arroyo was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft. He had been committed to play college ball at the University of Florida, but decided to go into professional baseball instead. They assigned him to the Arizona League Giants, where in 45 games he hit .326 with two home runs and 39 RBI. In 2014 he played for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes and Augusta Green Jackets. In the 2016 season he was with the Sacramento River Cats, where he batted .446 with seven doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs in 16 games.

  His first major league game with the Dodgers was in 2017, and he was subsequently sent back to Triple-A when the regular third baseman returned from injury. In December he was traded to Tampa Bay. The Rays traded him to the Cleveland Indians in 2019, and because of injuries he only played one game for the Indians. When Cleveland put him on waivers, the Red Sox claimed him on August 13, 2020. He was sent to the team’s alternate training site, then on September 8 he was promoted to Boston. In 2020 he played 14 games for the Sox, batted .240, hit three home runs and had 14 RBIs. He was on the injured list on and off during the 2020 season, then went on the COVID list. He was reactivated on September 21. His play in left field and his batting well when needed have put him as a prime left fielder for the Sox.

  The last player that Bloom traded for is Kyle Schwarber, who came to the Sox in July of 2021. His baseball statistics start with Middletown High School in Middletown, Ohio, where he batted .408 and hit 18 home runs and 103 RBIs. He was “scholar-shipped” to Indiana University Bloomington. His freshman year he was selected by Louisville Slugger and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as an All-American, after hitting .300 with eight home runs and 47 RBIs. In 2013, his sophomore year, he batted .366 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named him to their first-team All-American team. As a junior he batted .348 with 13 home runs and was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award. In the summer of 2012, Kyle played in the Cape Cod Baseball League for the Wareham Gatemen. Behind Schwarber the Gatemen won the league title; he was awarded the MVP of the playoffs; and he was inducted into the CCBL Hall of Fame in the 2019 class.

  He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the first round, fourth overall in the 2014 MLB draft. An MLB.com analyst named Kyle as a “game changing power hitter,” but was critical of his slow base-running and his fielding skills. He was assigned to the Boise Hawks then promoted to the Class-A Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League, then the Class-A Advanced Florida State League in the off season. In 72 games between the three teams, he hit .344 and belted 18 homers with 53 RBIs and 18 doubles. He started the 2015 season with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League and played in the All-Star Futures Game, where he was named MVP after hitting a go-ahead, two-run triple for Team USA. He was moved up to the Cubs in 2015 and played as a designated hitter (DH) in interleague play. Kyle was a substitute catcher for Niguel Montero, then Kyle was sent back down to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League when Montero returned. Kyle returned to the majors on July 21; in a 5-4, extra-inning victory against the Cincinnati Reds, Schwarber hit a home run that tied the game in the ninth-inning and then hit another homer in the 13th for the victory. In the NL Wild Card game, he hit a long home run, driving in three runs for the victory and advancing to the Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. His two home runs aided the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the Cards. The home run in game four was recorded as a mammoth smash to the top of the new Wrigley Field scoreboard, which was later encased in plexiglass and replaced on top of the scoreboard.

  In 2016 he suffered injuries that kept him away from many games, but he was added to the roster for the World Series against the Indians. His prior injuries forced him to be a DH. In the series he batted .412, had an on-base percentage of .500, had seven hits, one of which was a double, two RBIs and a stolen base.

  He had a tough early season in 2017 and was sent back to Triple-A. He was brought back up after the All-Star break. He belted five home runs, three doubles and a triple by August 12, but he had struck out 106 times in 300 plate appearances. In September he hit .288 with an OPS of .954. To the plate 59 times in September, he hit six home runs for a season total of 30.

  During the off-season Schwarber started a very strict workout program and lost 30 pounds. In the 2018 season he hit .238 with 26 home runs, 14 doubles and 61 RBIs. In 2019 he batted .250 with 38 home runs and 92 RBIs. On defense he had the worst percentage of all NL leftfielders with a percentage of .974 and six errors. In 2020 he batted .188 with the lowest batting average of all qualified NL batters. The Cubs non-tendered Schwarber in December. In January 2021 the Washington Nationals signed Kyle to a one-year contract with an option for 2022. He played in 72 games for the Nationals, batting .253 with 25 homers and 53 RBIs.

  Kyle was traded to the Red Sox on July 29, 2021, while injured. He was activated from the list on August 13. On October 18 in the 2021 ALCS game three, he whacked a Grand Slam in the bottom of the third, the third grand-slam in two games by the Sox, a record for the most slams by a team in a playoff series. Although not a great fielder, he has performed well enough at Fenway and away, and his bat was instrumental in sidelining Bobby Dalbec from his first base position. Schwarber is a formidable hitter who was undervalued through most of his career, but he has proven to be a very valuable hitter for the Sox.

  That is the history of the added players that Bloom has brought to the Red Sox. That brings us to the valuation of Chaim Bloom. Although his objective is to secure new young talent to the Sox, he is adding older talent in the interim, until the youngsters in Worcester and later drafts become able to swing the pendulum. We pin our hopes on next season.

Contact Advocate Newspapers