Top 10 free agent signings in Boston sports history
Top 10 free agent signings in Boston sports history
For the second straight offseason, the Celtics have landed a top free agent, but will Gordon Hayward go down as one of Boston's best free-agent signings ever? Here's his competition.
Honorable mention: Bill Mueller
One of multiple stealth signings by Theo Epstein before the 2003 season, Mueller took a three-year deal for a total of just $6.7 million and posted an AL-best .326 average in his first season with the Sox. All in all, he hit .303 over his three seasons in Boston.
Honorable mention: Jarome Iginla
This one defines “good and bad,” as it could be spun as one of the worst signings in Boston history. Good: Iginla proved to be a perfect Bruin in his lone season with Boston, scoring 30 goals and serving as an excellent replacement for Nathan Horton. Bad: The way his contract was structured put over $4 million in overages against the cap the next season, leaving the B’s without money to re-sign him and in part leading to the Johnny Boychuk trade.
Honorable mention: Johnny Damon
Damon was pretty much as advertised in his four years in Boston: He was a fine leadoff guy who could give you 10-plus homers and 20-plus stolen bases. He also threw in a grand slam to send them to the World Series for good measure.
10. Koji Uehara
It was hardly viewed as a major move when the Sox gave a one-year, $4.25 million deal to the 37-year-old reliever, but that didn’t mean it didn’t turn heads. Uehara was really good for the Rangers in 2012, posting an insane 14.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio that historically sat behind only Dennis Eckersley since 1900.
Still, dude was old and he’d dealt with a lat injury in the previous season, so there was some question of what he’d do in Boston. Here’s what he did: took over as Boston’s closer, posted a 1.09 ERA in the regular season and was lights-out in a run to a World Series championship. That earned him a two-year, $18 million extension that saw him become an All-Star in 2014.
9. Keith Foulke
When there was as much riding on the 2004 season — the loaded roster, Pedro Martinez being in the final year of his contract, trying to get past the 2003 ALCS, etc. — it didn’t matter whether Foulke was great for all of his three-year deal. This wasn’t one of those “how will he be in Year 3?” deals. This was a “This dude better bring them a championship this year” kind of deal.
That he did. Foulke probably should have been World Series MVP over Manny Ramirez given that he pitched in every game and the only run he allowed was a meaningless Larry Walker solo shot, but all that mattered was that he played a major role in delivering a title.
8. Rob Ninkovich
It must be horrifying to see Bill Belichick sign a player you discarded knowing they could turn into a star. That can happen with any team, but it’s got to be more frustrating when Belichick does it to you.
That’s what happened with Ninkovich, as the Saints waived their 2006 fifth-round pick after one season, brought him back after he spent parts of two seasons with the Dolphins, then got rid of him again. In eight seasons with the Patriots, he’s recorded 44 sacks and won two Super Bowls.
7. Marc Savard
July 1, 2006 should go down in history as the Bruins’ “We swear to God we’re trying” day. With money to spend, Boston went out and signed two of the top free agents on the market in Zdeno Chara and Savard.
Savard proved to be worth that four-year, $20 million contract, as he put up 96 points in his first year in Boston and remained more than a point-a-game player in the next two. It wasn’t until after he’d signed a seven-year extension that concussions derailed (and eventually ended) his career.
6. Rodney Harrison
Harrison was far from done after nine seasons in San Diego, so much so that the Pats gave him a six-year deal (insert “term doesn’t matter on NFL contracts” quip here) after he was released by the Chargers.
The Pats took a gamble in signing Harrison and releasing Lawyer Milloy, but it paid off in the form of back-to-back Super Bowls. Plus Freddie Mitchell made an ass of himself that one time.
5. Mike Vrabel
The OG of “Belichick could do way more with this guy than his last team.” Vrabel’s career-high in tackles through four seasons in Pittsburgh was 16, a number that shot up to 63 in in his first season in New England in 2001. He won three championships in New England and posted 12.5 sacks in his final season with the Pats before being traded to the Chiefs in the Matt Cassel trade.
4. Malcolm Butler
Yes, we kind of suck for including Butler here, but he was indeed a free agent.
Far and away the Patriots’ best undrafted free agent (sorry, BenJarvus Green-Ellis), Butler has already been a Pro Bowler, a second-team All-Pro and a two-time Super Bowl champion (one thanks to him making the greatest play in Super Bowl history) through three seasons.
3. Manny Ramirez
Plenty of time during Ramirez’ tenure in Boston after signing an eight-year, $160 million was spent figuring out whether he was a problem for the team, but here’s what he always was: An unbelievable hitter. He hit 40-plus homers in three of his six seasons in Boston, including an AL-best 43 with 130 RBI in 2004.
Did he at times seem indifferent? Yes. Did the Sox try to give him away for nothing after the 2003 season? Yes. Was he such an ass that he shoved a 64-year-old man to the ground over some tickets? Yes. Ramirez, for better and often for worse, was quite the example of taking the good with the bad.
2. Zdeno Chara
Especially in cap leagues, free agency is not where teams should be built, but Chara provided an exception. In turning down more money from the Rangers and Kings, the former Senators blueliner gave the B’s a No. 1 defenseman for more than a decade, winning one Norris Trophy and being snubbed of at least two more.
The B’s would build their back end around Chara, frequently stashing their younger defensemen on pairings with him in the regular season knowing that Chara could still manage to keep opposing teams’ stars off the board. Entering his 12th year in Boston, Chara would be better served to anchor a second-pairing, but he remains Boston’s top defenseman.
1. David Ortiz
There probably wasn’t much suspense regarding who would top this list. Signed to a non-guaranteed one-year, $1.25 million deal after he’d been released by the Twins, Ortiz went on to form an absolute monster of a duo with Ramirez and continue his greatness long after Manny was gone.
When all was said and done, Ortiz had set the Red Sox record for most 30-homer seasons (10) and most 100-RBI seasons (10), among others.