PEORIA, Ariz. — While there are several "ifs" in the process, some of them big and some of them expensive, there is more than a passing chance the Mariners are giving serious consideration to bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back.
Cincinnati is known to be looking to move Griffey's contract with $66.5 million still due him for five guaranteed years, plus an option for 2009. Officials of the Seattle club are believed to have had a number of internal discussions on the matter, including here at training camp.
A source among Griffey's friends has said that he would be happy to return.
Seattle has made no secret of its search to upgrade its offense, and Griffey, if he is healthy and willing to return as a purely positive influence, could be the optimum fit on the field.
In addition, the outfielder, who left Seattle to be with his hometown Cincinnati team prior to the 2000 season, would fulfill what may be perceived as the team's need to make a public-relations bang.
This is not to suggest the Mariners are set on bringing back Griffey to the town in which he made the All-Century team, or that they will do anything at all.
The biggest hurdle to returning Griffey could be the five guaranteed years left on his contract, starting at age 34 with major injuries wiping out most of his past two seasons. Balanced against that is the fact that Griffey's money is spread out for years after he is done playing — $6.5 million a year is deferred.
Yet, in the offseason the Mariners were unable to accomplish one of their goals, to add a big bat — as second baseman Bret Boone put it, "a bopper" — to an offense that ranked seventh in the American League in scoring and 13th in home runs, topping only Tampa Bay.
Tampering rules prevent speaking of specific players, but there are extremely few outfielders available to, in the words of Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi early this spring, "add some kind of offense."
"We're ready to act now, and we'll be talking to every team," Bavasi said. "But probably nothing would happen until spring games start and other teams see what they have, what they might be willing to do and what they need."
With Milwaukee recently signing Geoff Jenkins to a multiyear contract, the list is seemingly limited to Magglio Ordonez of the Chicago White Sox, a free agent after this year, and Griffey, in the midst of a long-term deal with the Reds that pays him $62.5 million for five more years with a $4 million buyout of a club option for 2009.
Being a center fielder and a left-handed bat, Griffey would appear to be better built for Seattle than Ordonez, a right-side hitter and right fielder.
Seattle manager Bob Melvin has made clear his reluctance to shift Ichiro to center, which would be necessitated by trading for Ordonez, who will make $14 million this year.
Carlos Beltran of Kansas City is another outfielder once believed to be on the market. But there are several significant reasons Beltran, who will make $8 million this season, would not be available. First, the Royals are expected to be a contender in the AL Central. Second, there is strong speculation that agent Scott Boras will take Beltran to free agency, where he would top next winter's talent list.
"With Griffey, if he's healthy and still got his power," a National League scout noted, "you don't ever have to worry his power is juiced (steroid-aided). He is natural and always has been, and these days that's no small thing to consider."
Seattle CEO Howard Lincoln may be the major player in any effort to trade for Griffey, certainly in all situations where the club would be committing many millions for many years.
There is the long-standing feeling — now urban legend at Safeco Field — that Lincoln would not countenance Griffey's return, that there continued to be bad feeling stemming from Griffey's demand to be traded.
But a Seattle source said recently this is not so: "There's this feeling that Howard wants Griffey to do penance, to walk in the desert, but that just is not true."
Lincoln refrains from addressing that directly.
Instead, asked about his feelings toward the former center fielder, the most important player ever to wear a Seattle uniform, Lincoln refers to a radio interview he gave last month.
"I can't express my feelings about Kenny any better than I did then," Lincoln said. "I was asked what I thought of Junior and Alex Rodriguez. I said, " 'I consider Alex a great baseball player, and I consider Kenny a great player and a great human being.'
"Let me put it this way: If I was stranded on a deserted island and I had to pick one or the other to be with me there, I would pick Kenny without any hesitation."
Asked about his feelings of adding Griffey, in the sense that at one time there may have been friction, Lincoln cited the possibility of tampering and refused to speculate.
But at the same time, he emphasized, "When it comes to putting together a good ballclub, I assure you I have a completely open mind."
The Mariners are known to be wary of Griffey's physical condition after five stretches on the disabled list, three of them for right-leg injuries, which limited him to 234 games the past three years.
For the Mariners, possibly more than any other club, Griffey's approach may be as key as his health.
Treated as a franchise player, Griffey was a monster figure in the organization. Some of it irked, such as rarely joining his teammates for pregame stretching. Some of it was affectation, such as the leather lounge chair at his locker.
As one Seattle executive put it, "there will be no more Barcaloungers in the clubhouse."
The status took a serious turn in 1999 when Griffey called former GM Woody Woodward during a game to complain about the Safeco Field roof being open.
On that incident, Brian Goldberg, Griffey's agent, made a point.
"Ken took the fall for that," said Goldberg, who was at the park yesterday to watch client Ben Howard, a San Diego Padres pitcher. "But he wasn't alone. He had a number of teammates urging him to make the call, telling him he's the only one the team would listen to."
The club has made a number of changes to cut the glare during day games, and Griffey is aware of those.
Sources also confirm that Griffey is aware of Seattle's firm stance that, if the Mariners were to bring him back, it would be as an essential contributor no more privileged than any other lead player.
A deal could take several forms. In the most obvious scenario, the Mariners would take on all Griffey's money and give an outfielder back, probably Randy Winn.
But Seattle, with mound depth starting to back up at Tacoma, could part with one or two young arms if Cincinnati would take on some of Griffey's contract or part with a pitcher such as Chris Reitsma, the Reds' hard-throwing right-hander.
There is no timetable for any deal. The Mariners would wait as long as needed to see how well Griffey has come back from his ailments.
If it somehow came to pass, how would Seattle players feel about having him back?
A sample of responses in the clubhouse: "Fine with me." "Really? Great." "Wow!"
When I was growing up in the Northwest there was nothing quite like going to the game, turning on the television or even listening to the radio when Griffey was in his prime. Even when the Mariners were getting blown out everyone would stay put in the Kingdome until Griffey got his last hacks at the plate, just in case.
The saddest day was when Junior said that he no longer wanted to play in Seattle. This was different than Shawn Kemp or Randy Johnson wanting out. Griffey was *ours* and we were good to him damnit. A little hard at times, but I think Seattle was more than fair to him. That was 4 or 5 years ago. I think the wounds have healed in that time. They have for me anyway, and while the Ken Griffey Jr of today isn't the same Griffey that left Seattle so many years ago I know I'd still mark out like a madman for his return to Seattle.
Griffey can still put up 45-50 HRs in a season, if he can play a full season. I still think he can be one of the top 15 players in the game. If Frank Thomas can make a comeback then why not Griffey?
I'd be really careful going into such a thing if I were Mariner management, but I'm a fan and the fan inside me says to bring Ken Griffey Jr back to Seattle!
If they decide to go for offense, I think they bite the bullet and move Ichiro to center and bring in Mags for (cheap)pitching to the big market(yet act like a small market)White Sox. Griffey's at the point where when he's active for 15 days its a news story, not when he's on the 15 day disabled list.
Latest news out of Hollywood is that Sid Eudy was offered the role of Jesus in The Passion. Unfortunately, that fell through due to Sid's continued insistence that he be crucified under the title: King of the Squirrels.
It would be quite a story if Griffey were to return to Seattle and put up those last 2-3 great seasons that I feel he needs to make the Hall of Fame, but I wonder if the Griff is physically capable of it. As great as he was, his body just doesn't seem able of staying together for an entire season. If I were the M's, I wouldn't take such a risk for such a big salary.
As a Reds fan, this story angers me. I want Griffey gone as much as the next real Reds fan, and this just teases us with that possibility that we'll unload him. Then, of course, we'll be stuck with him.
I wonder who will be the next outfielder to emerge for the Reds while he's hurt THIS season, only to be traded once Griffey is "healthy". *grumble*
Originally posted by GrimisEver wonder if that Griffey-for-Nevin would've changed much for either team?
Probably not, but I suspect Reds fans would've been a lot less frustrated and disgusted with Nevin. I don't recall any stories of Nevin bitching about the fans in whatever city he played in, at least. Then again, I don't think he's spent nearly the time on the DL that Griffey did, either.
Originally posted by StaggerLeeKen Griffy JRs days of being a productive outfielder are over. I always thought he was overrated in the homerdome, and he has been injurred more than not in the past 5 years.
Time to give up on him and look for another outfielder with some "pop" in his bat seattle.
Because of injuries he may not be worth the salary now, but I can't agree that he was overrated in Seattle. 11 Time all star. Ten gold gloves. 1997 MVP. In fact he finished in the top 5 MVP voting five years in a row. There was talk of him as one of baseballs ALL TIME GREATS when he went to Cincy. At the time he took millions less than he was worth to go to there. Injuries shouldn't diminish what he had done to that point. Griffey was beyond awesome in the field and at the plate and was very popular with the fans. He could retire today and be in the Hall of Fame. He was THE dominant player of the 90's.
He has only been injured for the last three years. In 99 he played 160 in 00 he played 145.
I'd still want the guy on my team. His injuries won't last forever. His stock has fallen so much, it seems few remember how great he was. He is the same age as Sammy Sosa, younger than Barry Bonds by five years. No matter where he ends up, I think he will have a big year. And I really think he still has some huge years left in him. All that said, Griffey would probably be better to leave Cincy. His situation seems very negative there, and I'd bet there are plenty of teams, and fans, that would welcome him and kick start a career turnaround.