Biggest trades of the decade
The Red Sox got exactly what they wanted from trade acquisitions Josh Beckett (left) and Curt Schilling.
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1. Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees from the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias; Feb. 16, 2004
Rodriguez was being pursued by the Red Sox all during the winter of 2003-04. And he probably would have gone to Boston had the players union signed off on a trade that would have diminished the value of his record $252 million contract by a few million. But when all hope seemed lost, out of the blue came the blockbuster deal to the rival Yankees, the team that was truly made for baseball's biggest and best-paid star.
The door was opened for A-Rod when 2003 playoff hero Aaron Boone, the Yankees' third baseman at the time, injured his knee in a pickup basketball game. When A-Rod, anxious to leave Texas, was asked whether he would considering switching from shortstop to third base, he didn't hesitate. Rangers owner Tom Hicks, equally anxious to get out from under the contract (or at least most of it), agreed to pay $9 million per year to the Yankees and send Rodriguez to New York for Soriano and shortstop prospect Arias.
2. Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox from the Marlins for Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia; Nov. 24, 2005
Boston wanted to add an ace to the top of its rotation while the Marlins were looking to supplement their supply of young talent while cutting payroll. The big deal was engineered while Red Sox GM Theo Epstein was on hiatus following an impasse in negotiations to bring him back, and while it benefited both teams -- Beckett and Lowell became key players in Boston's second World Series win and the Marlins got their franchise player in Ramirez -- Epstein has spent some time since returning trying to reacquire Ramirez, one of the best young players in baseball.
Beckett has delivered for Boston in much the same way he brought a championship to Florida, following decent regular seasons with exceptional postseason performances. He has been the ace that the Red Sox sought. Florida wanted Lowell gone in a cost-cutting purge, but he has turned out to be a much better performer in Boston than folks imagined after a slump-ridden season in Miami. Ramirez is everything Florida could have wanted, and more.
3. Curt Schilling to the Red Sox from the Diamondbacks for Brandon Lyon and Casey Fossum; Nov. 28, 2003
Epstein engineered the deal by convincing Schilling that Boston would be the perfect spot for him, and winning his approval. Then he sent overrated young left-hander Fossum and reliever Lyon to Arizona in what can only be described as a steal. Schilling helped win two World Series in Boston, one with a bloody sock.
4. Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, Jason Bay to the Red Sox, prospects Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen to the Pirates; July 31, 2008
Ramirez earned his way out by misbehaving in his final season in Boston, when the Red Sox became desperate to unload the great hitting star. Epstein arranged the three-way trade that sent Ramirez to Los Angeles, with Jason Bay coming to Boston and Pittsburgh getting four less-then-overwhelming prospects. Ramirez became an immediate sensation in L.A., where it was practically love at first sight for inhabitants of Mannywood. Ramirez helped lead the Dodgers to the NLCS, fitting into that scene much better before being caught in a drug suspension early in 2009. Bay has played well in Boston, putting up decent numbers. It's too early to judge Pittsburgh's side of things, but so far it doesn't look pretty.
5. Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to the Expos from the Indians for Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens; June 27, 2002
Under the impression that his franchise was going to be contracted, then-Expos GM Omar Minaya traded Montreal's three best prospects (Lee, Sizemore and Phillips) for Colon, a top-of-the-rotation starter who was going to give Montreal a shot at final glory. Montreal didn't come close to making the playoffs, and this deal became the cautionary tale for anyone thinking of trading top prospects. While Phillips, considered the best of the minor leaguers, took longer than expected to develop and didn't actually become a star until going to Cincinnati in 2006, Sizemore and Lee became sensations for the Indians. Sizemore is considered one of the best center fielders in baseball, while Lee, who led the Phillies to the World Series this year after being acquired in July, is an ace with a Cy Young Award on his résumé.
Best free-agent signings
1. David Ortiz, Red Sox; Jan. 22, 2003
The Red Sox thought they were getting a part-time player when they spent $1 million on Ortiz, who had been released by the Twins, a team that rarely made a mistake. Nobody thought much of Ortiz at the time, but 259 home runs later --many of them huge ones -- he proved to be a clutch middle-of-the-order slugger.
2. Manny Ramirez, Red Sox; Dec. 19, 2000
The ending was bad, but Ramirez was a terrific for seven years, everything that then-GM Dan Duquette could have imagined when he spent $160 million for eight years on Cleveland's mercurial star. Ramirez's legend as a hitting savant and all-around goofball was built in Boston.
3. Ichiro, Mariners; Nov. 30, 2000
A decade after the Mariners got one of the world's great all-around players, he is still a major star. Nine years of 200-plus hits makes him one of the all-time bargains. He originally cost Seattle $13.125 million for the posting fee plus $14 million for a three-year contract.
4. CC Sabathia, Yankees; Dec. 20, 2008
It's only one year into an eight-year, $161 million contract, but so far Sabathia is everything the Yankees could have hoped for: a bona fide ace, a horse and a big-game pitcher who helped deliver a championship in his first season in the Bronx. The price was high, but he is worth it.
5. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals; Dec. 13, 2002
St. Louis got him for a song (one year, $300,000, plus a club option for 2004), and Carpenter has been one of the game's best pitchers. He is 68-24, has two Comeback Player of the Year awards and a Cy Young since arriving from Toronto as a talented yet injury-prone pitcher. He has missed a lot of starts with assorted pains, but when healthy he has been terrific.