Red Sox: Three Winter Meetings that shaped franchise’s future

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 03: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 03, 2019 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 9-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 03: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 03, 2019 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 9-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez
TOKYO – MARCH 26: Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox hits a home run (Photo by Michael Zagaris/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Red Sox sign free-agent Manny Ramirez in 2000

After parts of eight seasons to open is career in Cleveland in which he established himself as one of the game’s best run producers, Manny Ramirez was the top bat on the market when he entered free agency for the first time.

On December 19, 2000, the Red Sox inked Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million deal. It was the richest free-agent deal in franchise history at the time and allowed Ramirez to join Alex Rodriguez as the first players in MLB history to earn $20+ million per season.

Ramirez hit .312/.411/.588 with 274 home runs and 868 home runs in 1083 games in a Red Sox uniform. He was an eight-time All-Star and earned a Sliver Slugger award in each of his first six seasons in Boston while finishing in the top-10 on the AL MVP ballot in five consecutive seasons.

David Ortiz paired with Ramirez to form the league’s most formidable duo. The two superstars anchored the lineup of two championship teams, including the curse-breaking 2004 title when Ramirez earned World Series MVP honors.

The affable Ramirez was a fan-favorite for years but the “Manny being Manny” routine eventually wore thin. A falling out with the team led to the Red Sox shipping Ramirez to the Dodgers midway through the 2008 season.

His tenure in Boston didn’t end well but Ramirez earned every cent of that massive contract while he was here. His contribution to two World Series titles helped change the culture of a franchise that had endured 86 years of misery, transforming the Red Sox from an underdog to a team expected to contend every year. That makes Ramirez arguably one of the most important free-agent signings in franchise history.