Sunday, March 14, 2004

Griffey Rumors Get New Spark 

Last week, a Bob Finnigan article which conjectured that the M's had serious interest in Ken Griffey, Jr. led to a series of rumors that were stoked by ESPN (being a constant teaser on Sportscenter, and articles like this one on the website). The M's blogosphere, after debating its merits both pro and con, wasn't buying it, eventually concluding that this was another Bob Finnigan pipe dream and was well-documented by San Shin (not once but twice) to be a waste of time.

Not so fast.

Today's Dayton Daily News has a blurb buried in its Reds coverage that quotes Ken Griffey himself, thinking that he's "being showcased" for a trade.

"I've seen scouts from Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles," Griffey said. "I'll be traded within two weeks. Why do I feel that way? Gut feeling."

And it then adds this interesting tidbit of corporate conspiracy...

Griffey wonders if it is coincidence or if Nike knows something.

"All my shoes have been red and black since I came to the Reds," he said. "This year Nike is putting out a pair of my shoes in teal. You know who wears teal?"

The Florida Marlins?

"Yeah, they wear teal, but no. Seattle wears teal," he said.
The fact that Griffey is thinking he might be traded suddenly puts these rumors in a new light. Maybe it could happen. Griffey sure would look better in the number four spot in the lineup than Raul Ibanez does right now. The question for me is, at what cost Junior?

Some argue that Junior's remaining contract of 5 years, $66M is near what we could have had a much healthier in his prime Vladamir Guerrero ($14M/year). But remember, that the deferred payments reduce the cost of the contract in net present dollars to less than 9.3M per season, making it more like a 5 year, $46.5M contract. If we could get the Reds to take on some salary in the form of Kevin Jarvis (former Red and would probably be the #3 or 4 guy in that rotation) and Quinton McCracken (we don't need him as a 4th OF anymore, and the Reds need a 4th OF who can play center) in return, then we are looking at something the equivalent of a 5 year, $40M investment to bring Junior home.

As a baseball investment, it is still high risk. Junior could get hurt and never play again (though, I'm guessing this contract is insured, so that is not the worst thing that could happen), or he could play minimally and not even be covered by insurance. He could be a distraction in the clubhouse, and I don't think his easy chair would be welcomed back into the locker room. His baseball skills could decline dramatically, and then whine about his lack of playing time. Who knows?

But as a franchise investment, it looks like a great one. Howard Lincoln has gone out of his way in praising Junior while lambasting A-Rod this offseason. Junior would certainly spark interest in this season, likely guaranteeing record attendance. And imagine the national stories if Griffey and Edgar could team up for another playoff run in 2004. The Japanese press would eat up stories on Ichiro and Junior. And in ensuing years, even with mixed health, Griffey's home run numbers will start getting into very rarified air, passing 500 this season and approaching 600+ in remaining seasons in the contract. And, of course, Junior would then become the second Mariner after Edgar inducting into the Hall of Fame (the Big Unit is unlikely to be wearing a Mariner outfit if he makes the club). And that's all if his past four years repeat himself. There does seem to be something in the water in Seattle that allows its stars to succeed at ages when most athletes are hanging them up. What if he returned to his Mariner form? Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my shoes.

I don't really want to get my (or your) hopes up, and I do not like the idea of trading Winn for Griffey as I believe it exacerbates our vulnerabilities to injury without adding enough bat to the lineup. But if we can get Griffey and keep Winn, and maybe it costs a pitching prospect or two? That trade has the full endorsement of this Mariner Optimist. Lets bring Junior home.

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