Jon Heyman sniffs around at the growing rumors of Ken Griffey Jr moving to Tampa Bay in a trade. The Reds and Rays could make this trade, but there’s some complex issues. Let’s look:
1. Would Griffey help or distract the young Rays?
This is a bigger question than most think. The team passed on more than a discussion of Barry Bonds for fear of repelling a growing fan base or altering their clubhouse mix. Griffey has had his way with the clubhouse in Cincinnati, getting more special privileges there than Barry Bonds’ recliner ever dreamed. That’s not to say that Griffey couldn’t or wouldn’t be a good influence. He’d just be a change, one that the Rays would have to contemplate as much as his salary. About that …
2. How does Griffey’s big contract affect the talks?
Griffey’s contract is a really complex one. He’ll make $12.5m this season and is scheduled for $16.5m next year or a $4m buyout. $6.5m of this year (but not next) is deferred which makes the AAV lower. That’s not a big concern for the Rays, who would be more likely to buy him out. The Rays could unquestionably take on the salary, especially if the Reds have already paid the deferred money as sources tell me they do at the start of the season. The Rays could hold out for the Reds to eat more of the contract if they were willing to give up a prime prospect but …
3. How much would it take to make the deal?
Here’s the crux of the problem. The Rays are loaded with prospects and have high level talent in pre-arb periods. Some of those are going to be blocked and a deal that helps the team now in return for shaking some things loose is actually a plus. The Reds need pitching and the Rays have this in spades. A package could be built around Jeff Niemann, perhaps, but not Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson, I’m told. The premium arms in the system are mostly untouchable (Davis, McGee, Price) but there’s enough secondary talent to put something together. The Reds will definitely need some sort of Major League “show something” talent back, which could be what the Rays don’t have, at least in the right spots.
Fact is, Jon’s one of the best in the biz and if he’s hearing things, things are there to be heard. Andrew Friedman is very good at saying all the right things and then making the right deal. Consider the Ty Wigginton deal or more, the Delmon Young - Matt Garza swap. The Rays front office doesn’t leak as much as most but they are willing to be bold. Winning means more to them than most teams due to their push for a new stadium. Local legends like Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff didn’t help the old D-Rays, but Ken Griffey Jr? While I don’t think so, he just might.
** UPDATE: Reader C.B. points out that Griffey holds 10/5 rights and could hold up the deal if his option is not picked up. That’s definitely a complicating factor, especially with no money deferred. My guess would be that this kind of demand would be a dealbreaker for Tampa, leaving Griffey with a decision about how much winning and being close to home really mean to him.