Boston Red Sox: Theo Epstein's 5 Best Free Agent Signings

Adam MacDonald@adammacdoAnalyst IIJuly 7, 2011

Boston Red Sox: Theo Epstein's 5 Best Free Agent Signings

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    There are three ways to build a team. You can draft and develop players, trade for players in their prime or sign free agents.

    Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has proven in his tenure in Boston that he is among the best in the game at the first two. But he has struggled at signing free agents. From Edgar Renteria to Julio Lugo, JD Drew to the recently-released Mike Cameron, there are countless examples of poor additions by the Sox GM.

    But that is not to say there are no successes. Here are his five best FA signings.

Bill Mueller

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    When Theo Epstein signed Bill Mueller in January of 2003, the former Cubs and Giants third baseman was the archetypal "low-risk, high-reward" player the GM loves.

    With the exeption of an injury-shortened 2001 season, his batting average had fallen each year since 1998. He had only played at least 130 games twice in his career. Yet in his first season in Boston, he played 146 games and had career-bests in home runs (19), RBI (85) and average (.326) winning the AL batting title.

    The following season he was an integral part of the Red Sox's first World Series championship in 86 years. He also had a good glove at the hot corner, finishing in the top five in errors in 2004 and 2005.

Kevin Millar

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    First baseman Kevin Millar never had a great season in Boston.

    He never replicated the .296 average he had in five seasons with the Florida Marlins and was regularly replaced in late innings for defensive purposes. But he was productive and for $7 million over three years, he was a bargain.

    He is best known for a leadoff walk in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. He drew a walk against Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera, Dave Roberts pinch ran and scored the tying run.

Adrian Beltre

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    After never living up to his last huge contract with the Seattle Mariners, Adrian Beltre signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox before the 2010 season.

    It was a move that suited both parties: Beltre needed to prove he could still play at a high level and the Sox needed a third baseman with Mike Lowell injured and nearing retirement.

    He put up MVP-calibre numbers, with 28 home runs, 102 RBI and a .321 average. He left after just one season with the Sox but Boston traded for Adrian Gonzalez and moved Kevin Youkilis to third so Beltre was surplus to requirements. He signed with the AL champion Texas Rangers.

Carl Crawford

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    The jury is still out on this one, of course, as Carl Crawford is only in the first season of a seven-year deal signed in December 2010. The former Tampa Bay Ray struggled immensely out of the gate but has started to turn it around.

    But the best part of the signing so far is that he did not sign with the division rival New York Yankees. He had killed Boston in the past, including tying the major league record for stolen bases in a single game with six.

David Ortiz

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    David Ortiz was signed in January 2003. In six seasons with the Minnesota Twins he hit 20 home runs just once and his highest batting average was .282. He made just $1.25 million his first year in Boston but was a revelation, hitting 31 homers, driving in 101 and finishing fifth in MVP voting.

    He would finish in the top five in balloting five straight years, reach six All-Star Games, hit .300 three times and slug 30 home runs six times. Big Papi is now the all-time leader in home runs as a designated hitter and has become a firm fan favourite in Boston.

    After having slow starts in each of his last two seasons, he has had an offensive rebirth this year, batting .299 and on pace for 34 home runs and 98 RBI.