1. David Ortiz, 1/22/2003
On January 22, 2003, the Red Sox signed David Americo Ortiz for a modest one-year, $1.25 million contract after he had played his first six seasons with the Minnesota Twins. Words cannot do justice to what David Ortiz has meant to the Boston Red Sox since that January signing.
Big Papi became the heart and soul of the team for the next 14 seasons while establishing himself as the greatest Designated Hitter in the history of baseball. In addition to regular season accolades, he became the definition of clutch with multiple game-winning hits in the postseason helping the Red Sox “reverse the curse” and win their first World Series Championship in 86 years. For good measure, he led the team to another two World Series Championships in 2007 and 2013. He was a 1st ballot election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022. David Ortiz went from a pedestrian January signing to one of the greatest Red Sox players in franchise history.
It is impossible to make a list like this and include everyone. Several players just missed the top five. One honorable mention goes out to Enrique Hernandez who signed a two-year deal on 1/22/21.
Hernandez was a vital cog for a team that was just two wins away from the 2021 World Series. Another player on the cusp of this list was Coco Crisp who was traded to the Red Sox alongside Josh Bard and David Riske for Andy Marte, Guillermo Mota, and Kelly Shoppach in January 2006. He spent 3 seasons with the team and was a key contributor to the team’s 2007 World Series Championship.
One of his most memorable moments was a catch to clinch Game 7 of the American League Championship that most fans will never forget. More recently, the Red Sox signed promising reliever Zack Kelly to a minor league contract in January 2021.
Red Sox fans should remain optimistic that the team can improve its present-day and future fortunes in the coming months with international signings, trades, and free-agent signings. Though these moves may not always be flashy, they can be significant. It is naive to think that the Red Sox will sign the next David Ortiz this January.
To paraphrase Rick Pitino, David Ortiz is not walking through that door, fans. However, history has shown us that some of the players acquired this January could be the backbone of the next great Boston Red Sox team.