Thirteen years ago today, the Mariners signed free agent second baseman Bret Boone to a one-year contract worth $3.25 million, bringing him back to the team that originally drafted him. The club was looking to replace some of the power they would eventually lose when Alex Rodriguez signed his megacontract with the Rangers a few weeks later.
Boone, who was 31 at the time, had hit 19 home runs for the Padres in 2000 and a total of 63 home runs from 1998-2000. His performance in the two years prior to joining Seattle was valued at 0.4 WAR total -- 0.2 WAR in both 1999 and 2000 -- so he was trying to hang on. The team that just lost the best all-around player in baseball gave him an opportunity.
Did Boone take advantage of that opportunity? You bet he did. Here's how he rewarded the Mariners for that one-year contract:
That looks an awful lot like the what the A-Rod gave the Mariners -- .316/.420/.606 batting line with 41 home runs and 132 RBI -- the year before he left. Boone posted 8.8 WAR for Seattle that year after being valued at 5.4 WAR total during the first nine years of his career. The performance earned him a third place finish in the MVP voting behind teammate Ichiro Suzuki and Jason Giambi.
The Mariners won an AL record 116 games in 2001 thanks in large part of Boone. They re-signed him to a three-year deal worth $25 million after the season and he hit .275/.341/.474 (116 OPS+) with 83 home runs and 10.5 WAR during the life of the contract. It was a very good performance but not close to his 2011 exploits.
Naturally, performance-enhancing drug rumors surfaced following Boone's huge season, specifically an accusation by Jose Canseco that was flatly denied. This March 2002 article from ESPN's Jim Caple even says the big year came after Boone "bulked up considerably the previous winter." It's funny how differently the game is written about today than it was a decade ago.
We'll probably never know if Boone was on PEDs during his huge season. What we do know is that he had an insane, MVP caliber year pretty much out of nowhere. That one-year, $3.25 million contract is one of the best one-year contracts in baseball history.