Mueller agrees to two-year, $9.5M deal with Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Bill Mueller and
the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed Wednesday to a two-year contract worth about $9.5 million,
reuniting the former AL batting champion with Grady Little and Ned

Mueller, a switch-hitting third baseman, batted .295 with 10
homers and 62 RBI in 150 games with Boston last season. He hit
.338 with runners in scoring position and had a major
league-leading 10 hits with the bases loaded, going 10-of-19 in
such situations.

Colletti, hired as the Dodgers' general manager last month, said
he's been speaking with Mueller's agent, Ron Shapiro, for weeks.
Colletti was the assistant GM for the San Francisco Giants when
Mueller played there from 1996-00.

"Little by little, it became clear he had an interest in being
here," Colletti said on a conference call. "When we hired Grady,
the interest probably increased a little bit. We're thrilled he's
here. He's a character guy who's a winner."

Mueller joined the Red Sox in 2003 and led the AL in batting
with a .326 average in 146 games. He hit 19 homers, drove in 85
runs and had 283 total bases that season -- all career bests.
Boston's manager that year was Little, hired to manage the Dodgers
last week.

"When I mentioned his name, Grady couldn't say yes fast
enough," Colletti said.

The 34-year-old Mueller hit .283 with 12 homers and 57 RBI in
110 games in 2004, when Boston won its first World Series
championship in 86 years. He went 6-of-14 to help the Red Sox sweep
the St. Louis Cardinals in the Series.

"I've known both Ned Colletti and Grady Little for years, and I
respect them both immensely and thank them for this opportunity,"
Mueller said in a statement. "I'm really excited about the
direction the Dodgers are headed and look forward to some great
seasons ahead of us here in Los Angeles."

Mueller, a member of the Chicago Cubs in 2001 and 2002, has
played in 1,184 major league games with a .292 batting average, 82
homers and 478 RBI.

The Dodgers will enter next season with a rebuilt left side of
the infield -- they agreed last week to a $39 million, three-year
contract with shortstop Rafael Furcal.

All-Star shortstop Cesar Izturis had reconstructive surgery on
his throwing elbow late last season and isn't expected to be
available until July at the earliest.

Third base was an area of need. Jose Valentin began last season
as the team's third baseman, but was sidelined from May 4 to July
31 due to torn ligaments in his right knee. He wound up hitting
.170 with two homers and 14 RBI in 56 games, then signed with the
New York Mets earlier this month.

Mueller will speak with local reporters Thursday on a conference
call. He chose the Dodgers over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Meanwhile, Colletti said he'd made an offer to Nomar
Garciaparra, another former AL batting champion while playing for
the Red Sox.

"I'd like to talk to him before I comment on that," Colletti
said when asked about the possibility of Garciaparra playing the
outfield. "He has been an infielder most of his career. That
doesn't mean he couldn't make the switch to left field."

The Red Sox traded Garciaparra to the Cubs in July 2004.

Colletti has said repeatedly the team needs outfield help. That
need was increased with Tuesday's trade of Milton Bradley and
infielder Antonio Perez to Oakland for 23-year-old outfielder Andre
Ethier, the Texas League player of the year.

Ethier is expected to open next season at Triple-A.