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Griffey to the Braves? Makes More Sense

Just when you think a future Hall of Famer is on the verge of proving that concerns of competition always come behind concerns of contract dollars, another team enters the race and offers Ken Griffey Jr. a chance to play for a borderline contender. According to multiple reports from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ESPN, the Braves are "very interested" in adding Ken Griffey Jr. to their outfield.

From Atlanta's standpoint, the move makes some sense. The Braves haven't added a significant bat this offseason, and they could use more productivity from their corner outfield spots. Griffey could split time with Matt Diaz in left field, which would minimize his injury risk a bit while also putting him in a locker room where Griffey could help convince the Braves that they really can compete for the NL East title again. And Griffey would be a perfect platoon partner for Diaz; against right-handed pitching he slugged .462 with a .379 on-base percentage.

And it's not just idle speculation. Braves GM Frank Wren has already confirmed to the AJ-C's Dave O'Brien that the team is interested in adding Griffey.

The most interesting aspect of the negotiations may be that Griffey reportedly would rather land in Atlanta than Seattle, where he started his career. Neither team is a playoff shoo-in or even front runner, but the Braves are likely to be a lot more competitive than Seattle, which would have to be considered a No. 3 option in the AL West -- behind both the Angels and A's -- at best. The Braves might enter the season as the third-best team in the NL East, too, but with a few breaks they could be right in the mix.

Add to that some personal factors that make Atlanta a better fit, and Griffey could be ticketed for the South rather than the Pacific Northwest. Here's how O'Brien broke it down, after consulting with fellow A J-C writer Terrence Moore:

Terry Moore talked to a friend of Griffey's today, and Atlanta is his first choice. he really wants to play for the Braves. has a daughter on an Atlanta AAU team and a son who's playing high school football this year in Orlando, and Griffey doesn't want to be on the other side of the country at Seattle. Plus, he's always wanted to play for Bobby Cox.

If I had to bet, I'd say this gets done early next week.

That makes sense, doesn't it? A split outfield job, proximity to his family, a chance to compete for a playoff spot if everything breaks right? So, what could hold it up? Financial restraint. The Mariners were reportedly already close to offering Griffey $5 million for the upcoming season, with other incentives possible. Will the Braves jump on top of that offer to land Griffey, or would they offer a smaller contract with more incentives? They way teams have structured contracts as we've gotten closer to spring training camps opening for all players, you'd have to guess the latter before the former.

That being said, Griffey might be the kind of star to take that deal. It would help explain why his response was so cold when asked about contract negotiations with the Mariners at a PGA Pro-Am event on Friday.

So, let's speak hypothetically for a second. If the Braves offer Griffey $4 million guaranteed, plus $2 million in incentives based on appearances and performance, and the Mariners offer $5.5 million plus, say, $1 million+ in performance incentives (no apperance incentives for the sake of argument), which offer will he take?

For my money, it feels like he might take Atlanta's deal. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking. It would give a little more legitimacy to the concept of playing to compete rather than playing to earn cash, and there's something intrinsically valuable about that.

By Cameron Smith  |  February 15, 2009; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Braves , Mariners  
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Comments

This would be a great signing for the Braves. Right now they have possibly the lightest hitting OF in all of baseball. Diaz will probably hit 5, Josh Anderson maybe 5-10 and Francoeur maybe 15-20. Griffey can surpass/match their total by himself.

The Braves as a team hit 130 homers last season, a pathetic mark that was almost half what the top team in the majors hit (Texas with 235) and 3rd worst in the NL (behind only the Padres and Nationals). Their slugging percentage was also miserable. Griffey is a major upgrade for them.

If you take his 2008 numbers (which, when he moved to the AL for 40 games plummeted), Griffey would have been #4 in HR, #4 in RBI, #6 in OBP, #6 in SLG, and #5 in TB. He would move up in all categories except TB when you remove Texeira. If you use his 2007 numbers (his last full season in the NL), he would have been 1, 1, 4, 4, 2 (respectively) and moved up in OBP without Tex.

Totally worth a $5 million investment.

Posted by: adampschroeder | February 15, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Atlanta is a hole. Why would anyone choose Hotlanta with it's increasing crime rate, hign unemployment and conservative politics. I remember Ken from the 90's in Seattle, and he was treated like a God here. In Atlanta, he'll be little more than an expensive paycheck for a worthless team. Baseball is already a unlikely draw for fans this year thanks to another former Mariner, A-Rod. To be honest, 5 million is too much for any aging player in today's recession.

Posted by: shaverdesign | February 16, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

$5 million might be "too much for any aging player in today's recession" but Griffey will 1) help the Braves win games 2)help draw fans and 3)be an upgrade.

You also have to look at who's left on the free agent market. For outfielders you have Moises Alou (a mere 42 years old), Garret Anderson (37), Emil Brown (34), Luis Gonzalez (41), Jay Payton (36), Manny (37), Jim Edmonds (39), and Ken Griffey, Jr (39).

Out of that group Griffey is the best bet under the $25 million/year market. He wasn't offered arbitration, he's not over 40 and still has some range left (in 2007 his range factor was above average and 2008 his range factor was just slightly below average).

Is he the same deal as Abreu? Probably not, though he's not as much of a liability in the field, his bat isn't as good anymore. Is he worth 1/2 of what Dunn is getting paid? Probably so. If healthy, which I understand is a decent sized if, he could put up numbers that aren't too far off Dunn's in the HR/RBI categories. Especially with Dunn moving to a far less favorable hitting park.

So he's not the steal of the offseason, but he's worth the "risk" in my opinion.

Posted by: adampschroeder | February 16, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

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