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Griffey pulls plug on his trade to Mets

The Associated Press

In an electrifying near-miss, the Mets had a trade in place with Seattle for Griffey, only to have the Mariners star block it Monday night.

Tuesday, December 14, 1999

In an electrifying near-miss, the Mets had a trade in place with Seattle for Griffey, only to have the Mariners star block it Monday night.

”I don’t feel like we were wasting time,” Mets general manager Steve Phillips said. ”I think it was a worthy effort to pursue, and an exciting one to pursue.”

A busy day at the winter meetings began with Vinny Castilla going to Tampa Bay and Jeff Cirillo and Rolando Arrojo heading to Colorado in what baseball called its first four-team trade since 1985. Later, free agent Greg Vaughn signed with Tampa Bay.

Then, the Mariners and Mets almost pulled off one of biggest trades ever.

”I think we were close to an understanding,” Mariners general manager Pat Gillick said.

Neither GM identified the players the Mets agreed to send Seattle for the 10-time All-Star center fielder. A person involved in the talks, speaking on the condition he not be identified, said the sides had settled on closer Armando Benitez, outfielder Roger Cedeno and young pitcher Octavio Dotel.

”At this point, I don’t think he wants to go to the Mets,” Gillick said. ”You’re always hopeful something will change.”

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong called Griffey’s agent Monday, saying a deal was in place and asking if Junior would waive his right to block it.

But agent Brian Goldberg said no deal, Gillick said.

During the weekend, the Cincinnati Reds publicly pulled out of trade talks with the Mariners.

After the Reds backed out, Goldberg said: ”I don’t know why Seattle is wasting its time talking to a bunch of teams. If he can’t go to Cincinnati, then he’s going back to Seattle for the final year of his contract.”

Griffey can reject any deal as a 10-and-5 player – 10 years in the majors and the last five with the same team. This offseason, he asked the Mariners to trade him to a club closer to his home in Orlando, Fla.

There were plenty of deals, however.

Castilla went to Tampa Bay in a complicated trade that also involved Colorado, Milwaukee and Oakland. Vaughn signed a $34 million, four-year contract.

World Series star Chad Curtis was traded from the New York Yankees to Texas, and former October hero Chad Ogea also wound up with Tampa Bay. Among the other trades, Brant Brown moved from Pittsburgh to Florida.

Boston did not make a deal, but made news: Tom Gordon, the AL’s top closer in 1998, is expected to miss the entire 2000 season after undergoing elbow surgery.

The Red Sox still hoped to get outfielder Carl Everett from Houston, while Anaheim discussed sending outfielder Jim Edmonds to Oakland before the five-day session ended today.

The biggest power shift involved Tampa Bay. Next-to-last in the AL with 145 home runs this season, the Devil Rays added Vaughn and Castilla to a lineup that includes Jose Canseco and Fred McGriff – the quartet combined for 144 homers and 409 RBIs this year.

”We’re heading toward being an American League club,” Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said jokingly.

Vaughn had 45 home runs and 118 RBIs for Cincinnati this year, and the outfielder was looking forward to playing at Tropicana Field.

”They say it’s a great hitter’s park,” said Vaughn, 34. ”I think we have a real good shot at doing some things.”

While a lot of rumors floated, Tampa Bay, Colorado, Milwaukee and Oakland turned nearly a month of talking into a nine-player swap.

When it was sorted out, here’s where everyone was headed:

-Third baseman Cirillo (.326, 15 HRs, 88 RBIs), pitchers Arrojo (7-12, 5.18 ERA) and Scott Karl (11-11, 4.78) and infielder Aaron Ledesma (.265, 0, 30) to Colorado.

-Third baseman Castilla (.275, 33, 102) to Tampa Bay. The last of the original Rockies, he was reunited with LaMar – Castilla was a Braves prospect when LaMar was in Atlanta’s minor league department.

-Pitchers Jamey Wright (4-3, 4.87) and Jimmy Haynes (7-12, 6.34) and catcher Henry Blanco (.232, 6, 28) to Milwaukee.

-Pitcher Justin Miller (1-2, 4.14 in Class A) to Oakland.

The Devil Rays later took Ogea in the major league draft of players left off 40-man roster. The pitcher was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA for Cleveland in the 1997 World Series, but has never been able to duplicate that success.

Curtis, who hit two home runs in Game 3 of the World Series and caught the final ball in Game 4 to complete a sweep, was traded to Texas for two minor league pitchers.

”You don’t look at one great moment. You look at what he’s done over the years,” Rangers general manager Doug Melvin said.

The Yankees were the only team that did not attend the meetings. New York GM Brian Cashman, working by phone from Yankee Stadium, got pitchers Sam Marsonek and Brandon Knight.

In other deals, Pittsburgh traded Brown to Florida for Bruce Aven in an exchange of outfielders, and San Francisco sent reliever Jerry Spradlin to Kansas City.

Pittsburgh sent reliever Brad Clontz to Arizona, and Florida got outfielder Abraham Nunez from the Diamondbacks to complete the July 9 trade for Matt Mantei.