Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Theo Epstein says David Ortiz requested trade at start of Red Sox career

Alex Reimer
April 25, 2018 - 11:51 am

It’s easy to forget that David Ortiz did not immediately ascend to superstardom in Boston. Ortiz signed a non-guaranteed prior to the 2003 season and was the last man in a deep logjam at first base and DH. Jeremy Giambi and Shea Hillenbrand were both slotted ahead of him on the depth chart at the start of the season.

As a result, Ortiz only logged 88 plate appearances by May 14. He was batting .227 and managed to hit just one home run. It looked so bleak at the time, that Ortiz’s agent asked for a trade, according to Theo Epstein

“David Ortiz hit all of two home runs in the first (two months) of the 2003 season, and in mid-May had his agent come and ask me for a trade to somewhere he could play more regularly,” Epstein said on MLB.com’s “Executive Access” podcast. “Fernando Cuza came to talk to me and I told Cuza at the time that David was someone we wanted to get everyday at-bats, but we just needed to pare down the roster a little bit. We ended up trading Hillenbrand instead of David Ortiz, so I guess that was a good decision in hindsight. David got regular playing time and ended up hitting close to 30 homers in the second half of the season and was off and running as Big Papi.”

Epstein, of course, made the right call. Ortiz went on to lead the Red Sox to three World Series titles and clubbed 541 home runs in Boston. Hillenbrand was out of baseball by 2007. 

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