Griffey touches home

'Jr.' gets wish, goes to Reds for 4players, $116M, 9-year contract

Tomko, Cameron to Seattle `Last time I put on this uniform, I think I was 8'

February 11, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Piecing together a deal that had fallen apart two months ago, the Cincinnati Reds acquired center fielder Ken Griffey from the Seattle Mariners yesterday and reached agreement on a contract extension that sealed the 10-time All-Star's desired return to his hometown.

In exchange for Griffey, 30, who had requested a trade in November, the Mariners will receive pitcher Brett Tomko, outfielder Mike Cameron and two minor-leaguers.

The two sides reportedly had consummated the deal Wednesday night. The Reds were given 72 hours to work out a contract extension with Griffey, who agreed in principle to a nine-year, $116.5 million contract, the richest package in baseball history. He was slated to earn $8.25 million this season as the final installment of a four-year, $34 million pact.

The Reds hold an option for 2009 at a $16.5 million salary or a $4 million buyout. In addition, $57.5 million is being deferred and Griffey won't receive all his money until 2024.

About 200 people greeted Griffey at the Cincinnati airport, where he arrived from Florida in a private plane belonging to Reds owner Carl Lindner. After putting on his new Reds jersey during last night's news conference, Griffey said, "This is something I dreamed about as a little kid, being back in my hometown where I watched so many great players."

With his father, Reds bench coach Ken Griffey, needling him, Griffey added, "The last time I put on this uniform, I think I was 8 -- for a father-son game."

Griffey joins the National League's homer-happy Central Division, which also includes Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. In the past three seasons, they have slugged a total of 518 home runs. At his age, however, Griffey has no peers.

His 398 homers in 11 years make Griffey the biggest threat to Hank Aaron's record of 755. He also has a .299 career average, 1,152 RBIs and 10 consecutive Gold Gloves.

There's no telling if he'll continue to wear No. 24 -- it belonged to Tony Perez, elected last month to the Hall of Fame. "If Tony wants me to wear that number, I'll wear it," Griffey said. "I'm not going to be upset if he says no."

Griffey will join a lineup that has few rivals in the run production department. The Reds already added slugger Dante Bichette from Colorado this winter to go with Sean Casey, Pokey Reese, Barry Larkin, Dmitri Young and Eddie Taubensee. And Deion Sanders appears to be leaning toward playing baseball again, which would give the Reds more speed and a livelier clubhouse.

Griffey informed the Mariners in November that he wanted to play closer to his home in Orlando, Fla., after rejecting an eight-year, $148 million extension with the Mariners last season. Seattle general manager Pat Gillick had worked out a deal with the New York Mets during the winter meetings in Anaheim, Calif., but Griffey said he'd only approve a trade to the Reds, where his father serves as bench coach.

Griffey Sr., who once played in Seattle with his son, is expected to replace manager Jack McKeon after next season. McKeon, the NL's reigning Manager of the Year, was given a one-year extension.

"He's been around baseball for 20-plus years," Griffey said of his father. "He knows what it takes to be a manager. I hope he gets the chance."

Reds backed out once

The trade was jeopardized during the winter meetings when Cincinnati general manager Jim Bowden, frustrated by Seattle's insistence on second baseman Pokey Reese in any package of players, called a news conference to inform the media his club no longer would pursue Griffey. Many people within the baseball industry still believed Griffey would end up in Cincinnati, though it appeared more likely he would report to spring training with the Mariners.

The urgency to move Griffey intensified last week when he revealed that he had received a death threat and no longer could stay in Seattle. His agent, Brian Goldberg, said on Tuesday that the Mariners had given him permission to contact the Reds directly -- a possible violation of major-league rules. Sandy Alderson, the executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, said he would look into the matter.

"When we started this thing three months ago," Gillick said from Seattle, "the guys that were rumored we were asking for [Reese, first baseman Casey, starting pitcher Denny Neagle or reliever Scott Williamson] we were asking for. But they never put them in the deal. Anytime we tried to introduce them into the deal, they basically would not talk about them."

The Anaheim Angels had joined the fray this week in a potential three-team trade that apparently would have included center fielder Jim Edmonds, who no longer became an important component once the Mariners landed Cameron.

The deal is the most celebrated in Cincinnati since Pete Rose returned as player/manager in 1984. It's also the first by Lindner since purchasing the Reds from Marge Schott last fall, and one of the few in baseball history involving a player of Griffey's caliber in his prime.

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