Griffey still with Mariners…for now

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 12, 1999

The Associated Press


Friday, November 12, 1999

Email newsletter signup

DANA POINT, Calif. – Round 1 of the Ken Griffey Jr. sweepstakes ended with the slugger remaining with the Seattle Mariners.

The rest of baseball at least knows the ground rules: It will cost plenty to land the star slugger, and there’s a concern about giving up a lot, only to face the prospect of having Griffey leave as a free agent after the 2000 season.

How much? So much so that a dream pairing of Griffey and Mark McGwire in the same lineup, for instance, likely would remain just a dream.

St. Louis Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty said he had dinner one night this week with McGwire, and that subject came up.

”We’d love to have him here, but he (McGwire) also realizes that we have to stay competitive,” Jocketty said.

The Mariners are attempting to comply with Griffey’s wish that he be traded closer to his Orlando, Fla., home.

Three big trades were made this week, including Thursday’s five-player deal sending 1996 AL Cy Young winner Pat Hentgen from Toronto to the St. Louis Cardinals. Otherwise, GMs laid the groundwork for future deals, many of which could come at the winter meetings Dec. 10-14 in Anaheim.

Seattle GM Pat Gillick said he had three conversations regarding Griffey on Thursday, but none were as good as an apparently intriguing offer that the Mariners rejected on Wednesday.

”We told them at the time that we rejected it,” Gillick said. ”We kind of reflected on it overnight. It’s interesting.

”I think we can go back and restart it,” he said.

Gillick wouldn’t be more specific, other than to say the team that made that offer met previously with the Mariners.

The four teams believed to have the most serious interest are Griffey’s hometown Cincinnati Reds, the New York Mets, the Cardinals and the Houston Astros, although the latter two are believed to be on the periphery.

Cincinnati GM Jim Bowden said Wednesday that Seattle would want all the Reds’ best players for Griffey, effectively making them non-competitive after coming within one victory of the playoffs.

But Bowden clearly is intrigued with the prospect of landing Griffey. The Reds made five offers to the Mariners here, all of which were rejected. The Reds, who rebuffed three Seattle offers, did not speak with the Mariners on Thursday.

So where do the Mariners go from here?

”I just think we have to be patient, let the things kind of churn,” Gillick said.

Gillick said the Mariners aren’t disappointed they haven’t moved Griffey yet.

”We’re fine. I think you’ve just got to kind of stick with it. Hopefully something will materialize,” he said. ”If it doesn’t, we’ll just keep the guy. For the 2000 season, hopefully that could be a good situation. It might not work out in the end.”

Jocketty said the Cardinals waded into the Griffey talks, ”and we kind of waded out quickly, too.

”I think it’s going to be a little rich for us. The problem is the uncertainty whether Griffey would stay after next year. If you have to give up top-level players – and it would be top-level players – that’s pretty tough to do.”

Jocketty noted that a lot of people didn’t know whether McGwire would stay with the Cardinals after they traded for him during the 1997 season.

With Griffey, ”it’s a pretty big gamble. We’re talking about much greater players than we gave up for McGwire.”

Toronto, meanwhile, made its second big deal in four days, sending Hentgen and left-handed reliever Paul Spoljaric to the Cardinals for left-hander Lance Painter, catcher Alberto Castillo and minor league pitcher Matt DeWitt.

”Part of me is sad, but part of me is excited,” Hentgen said in a conference call. ”Whether it was business or personality or overall performance, the Jays thought it was the right move.”

The trade might have been a combination of the three. While the Cardinals get the pitching help they needed, the Blue Jays get rid of Hentgen’s $6 million salary for next season.

Hentgen, a fifth-round pick by Toronto in the 1986 amateur draft, played for the Blue Jays for eight seasons. He was a key member of the 1993 World Series championship team.

Hentgen said he had no hard feelings toward the Blue Jays, but thought manager Jim Fregosi wanted to see him dealt.

”Obviously, Jim felt like I wasn’t in the plans for the year 2000,” Hentgen said.

The Blue Jays, who traded Shawn Green and a minor league infielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Raul Mondesi and reliever Pedro Borbon on Monday, might not be through. David Wells and Carlos Delgado have been mentioned in trade rumors, although Toronto GM Gord Ash shot down a scenario that had them going to the New York Mets.

”This is more of a baseball trade than a financial trade,” Ash said. ”It sets us up well if we’re going to make some future deals here in the next couple of weeks.”