Ken Griffey Jr. has made a lasting imprint on the Seattle Mariners franchise; Both for his 10-plus years as a player and his roles within the organization after the conclusion of his playing career. Many longtime fans may remember when Griffey Jr. got his first MLB hit on April 03, 1989, a double into the left-center gap.
Other fans may remember his final game-winning hit against the Blue Jays at home on May 20, 2010. But so much happened between those two hits, both on the field and off the field.
In 1999, Ken Griffey Jr. was 10 years into his Hall of Fame career. He was also entering the last year of his contract with the Mariners. Jr. had made it clear that he was wanting to be closer to his hometown of Cincinnati and even listed a few teams originally that he was interested in being traded to.
Under the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) at the time, this meant that Jr. had 10 and 5 rights. This means that Jr. had played 10 years in the MLB and the last 5 years with the same team. Thus, he had the ability to veto any trade that he could potentially be involved in.
So, What If Ken Griffey Jr. Was Traded To The Mets Instead Of The Reds?
The other day while I was on Twitter scrolling through my feed, I came across this tweet:
As someone who was born in the 90’s, I was aware that Jr. was eventually traded by Seattle Mariners to Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, Jake Meyer and Antonio Perez (February 10, 2000). But I was not aware of the circumstances that led up to Jr’s eventual trade to the Reds, specifically the involvement of the Mets. One year of Jr. for club control of Armando Benitez, Roger Cedeño, and Octavio Dotel, in my opinion, would have been a great deal. Pat Gillick, Mariners GM at the time, agreed with that logic as well.
What Would Have Been The Ripple Effect?
So, what if Gillick got what he wanted? What if Griffey was jettisoned off to the Mets in his last year before free agency? For the sake of the hypothetical, the Mariners would not have gotten 3 solid years of centerfield play from Mike Cameron, 2 seasons of Brett Tomko (whom the Mariners traded with Tom Lampkin, Ramon Vazquez and cash to San Diego Padres in exchange for Ben Davis, Alex Arias and Wascar Serrano (December 11, 2001)) etc. Looking at the careers that each player had, it’s clear that the Mariners would have “won” the trade with the Mets.
Any issues with the backend of the bullpen would have been null and void if the Mariners would have added Benitez and Dotel. But would the Mariners have had a need for Kazuhiro Sasaki if they netted those two arms from the Mets? Probably not. Would there have been an in-house option to play centerfield if they would have completed this trade with the Mets? Most likely not. So either way they would have had to address the centerfield void one way or the other.
Ken Griffey Jr. Did The Right Thing.
Overall, I am glad Jr. vetoed the Mets deal because Mike Cameron was one of my favorite Mariners growing up. He was the reason I chose centerfield, the person I would imitate when making leaping “homerun robbing” catches, and was a huge contributor to one of the best teams in MLB history. So for that, I’d like to thank Jr. for being so stubborn on wanting to go to the Reds because it netted one of my favorite Mariners ever!
Every Wednesday, a new “What If” Mariners article will come out. Check back next Wednesday for who’s next!