The signing of Bill Mueller to a three-year, $6.7 million deal flew under the radar considering he was at the time a 32-year old third baseman coming off of a down season, but he quickly proved himself to be a tremendous bargain.
Mueller hit .326 in his first season in Boston to capture the AL batting title, while also setting career highs with 45 doubles and 19 home runs. The career .291 hitter always had a penchant for getting on base, but he saved some of his best work for Boston.
His Red Sox career was highlighted by several significant moments. On July 29, 2003 against the Texas Rangers the switch-hitter became the first player in history to hit two grand slams in the same game from opposite sides of the plate. Nearly one year later, Mueller hit a walk-off home run against Mariano Rivera to beat the Yankees on a day often remembered as the game that saw both benches clear, with catcher Jason Varitek shoving his mitt in the face of Alex Rodriguez. Many consider that the turning point in Boston’s season, which would end with a championship title. Mueller wasn’t done with Rivera yet though. Everyone remembers the infamous Dave Roberts steal in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, but it was Mueller that drove him home to tie the game, sparking the most epic comeback in sports history.
That clutch RBI may have been the highlight of Mueller’s postseason career, but we can’t overlook that he went 6-for-14 (.429) and drove in another pair of runs in the World Series that year.
Mueller’s time in Boston was fairly brief, but remarkably memorable. He compiled 10.0 WAR over his three seasons with the Red Sox, while earning just over $2 million per year. As far as veteran free agents go, you won’t find many better bargains than that.
Next: Johnny Damon