Trades Of The Decade: Griffey To The Reds

When the Mariners traded away the best player in the game a month into the new millennium, they didn't appear to have obtained much in return. They gave up Ken Griffey Jr.: an All-Star and Gold Glove winner every year of the 1990s and a member of the All-Century team.

At the time, Jake Meyer, Antonio Perez, Brett Tomko and Mike Cameron didn't seem like enough of a haul for Griffey. In the days following the trade, Michael Knisley of the Sporting News wrote that the Mariners "got fleeced last week more completely than Bo Peep's lost sheep at shearing time. For Junior Griffey, the man most likely to break Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, the game's most perfect all-around player in the prime of his career, the Reds gave Seattle … bits and pieces, drips and drabs of major leaguers and wanna-bes."

But Mariners GM Pat Gillick was cornered because Griffey became restless and demanded a trade in November of 1999. He had just one year and $8.25MM left on his contract, so many teams had interest, but Griffey's ten and five rights allowed him to veto any deal. 

Sports Illustrated reported that Griffey gave Gillick a list of four teams to which he would accept a trade: the Braves, Astros, Mets and Reds. The Mariners were trapped; their star wanted a trade, but the team's leverage was disappearing quickly.

 "It was not," Gillick said, "an ideal situation in which to negotiate."

Months of trade talks ensued between Reds GM Jim Bowden and Gillick. The Reds wanted to keep Pokey Reese and Sean Casey. The Mariners wanted a package that would provide depth in case Alex Rodriguez left as a free agent after the season.

Ultimately, the Reds acquired Griffey for Cameron, Tomko, Perez and Meyer. They promptly signed Junior to a nine-year $116.5MM deal. Lots of money, but SI's Tom Verducci said Griffey signed for about half his market value – the M's had apparently offered $138MM over eight years the summer before.

Griffey missed significant parts of the 2001-06 seasons with a variety of injuries. Whether it was his hamstring, his calf or his wrist, Griffey always seemed to be on the DL. He hit his 400th, 500th and 600th homers in a Reds uniform, but he didn't live up to the other-worldly standards he'd established in Seattle.

Cameron played at least 147 games for the Mariners in each of the four seasons after the trade, putting up a .798 OPS and winning a pair of Gold Gloves. Tomko never became an impact player for the Mariners and neither Perez nor Meyer actually played a game for the club, but that didn't stop Seattle from winning.

The Mariners made it to the ALCS in 2000 and again a year later after the club's historic 116-win campaign. Ten offseasons ago it looked like a great deal for Cincinnati, but Griffey never led the Reds to the playoffs and the club hasn't had a winning season since 2000.  A possible silver lining: the Reds received pitcher Nick Masset in the deadline deal last year that sent Griffey to the White Sox.  Masset had a fine year in '09 and could be the Reds' closer of the future.


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