Griffey moves from Reds to White Sox
Cincy native leaves hometown team after nearly nine seasons
CINCINNATI -- In the weeks leading up to Thursday's Trade Deadline, Ken Griffey Jr.'s name never surfaced once among the flotsam of rumors and speculation around the Majors.That's why the trade of Griffey was a stunner. The superstar outfielder approved a deal that sent him to the White Sox on Thursday in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nick Masset and Minor League second baseman Danny Richar. Teams had until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday to make deals without having players required to clear waivers. It didn't take very long for the deal to come together.
"They approached me [Wednesday] afternoon," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We didn't have a lot of time to get it done, so it tends to move a lot faster the last 24 hours. I was surprised. They obviously had a need for another bat in their lineup and a need for another outfielder. I know [White Sox GM] Kenny Williams had interest in Junior in the past, and looked at this as a good opportunity to add him to his club."Players with at least 10 years in the Majors, the last five with one team, can veto any trade. Griffey, 38, held those 10-5 rights as a 20-year Major League veteran who was in his ninth season with the Reds. Once Williams called around midday Wednesday, he and Jocketty spoke through each team's games that night. Jocketty sought manager Dusty Baker's opinion, while Williams talked with his manager, Ozzie Guillen. After Reds owner Bob Castellini signed off, the proposal was brought to Griffey after the game against the Astros in Houston. "He was a little bit surprised, maybe," Jocketty said. "He thought about it and said he wanted to talk to his family about it. I think it's a very good opportunity for him. They obviously wanted him, pursued him and came after him. That's got to be a good feeling for him, I guess." The trade had to also be approved by the Commissioner's office, presumably because of the amount of money that will change hands in the deal. The Reds, which had a scheduled off-day in Washington on Thursday, are splitting the remainder of salary in Griffey's contract that pays him $12.5 million this season and the $4 million buyout on his option year. For Griffey, he goes from a non-contending 51-58 Reds team that's 13 1/2 games out of first place to a White Sox team fighting in a pennant race. Chicago (60-46) entered Thursday leading the American League Central by 1 1/2 games over the Twins. Griffey will also likely return to playing center field, which he hasn't done since 2006. Griffey has never played in a World Series during his Hall of Fame career. "He's a legend in baseball and this is an opportunity for him to be in a World Series," Castellini told MLB.com. "I think it's a good opportunity for him. You have mixed emotions when you lose a guy like that, no question. He's a Hall of Famer, a Cooperstown man and a Cincinnatian. You don't do something like this without having a lot of different feelings." The departure of Griffey from Cincinnati came almost two months after he was regaled for hitting his 600th career home run. He hit No. 608, his final homer for the Reds, in Wednesday's 9-5 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park. He ranks one homer behind Sammy Sosa for fifth place on the all-time list. This season, Griffey is batting .245 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs but finished his Reds career riding a 12-game hitting streak. He was expected to become free agent this winter after he completed the final year of a nine-year contract. The Reds held a $16.5 million club option for 2009 that was widely expected to not be picked up, even by Griffey. "We were not going to exercise the option," Jocketty confirmed. Masset, 26, was acquired by the White Sox from Texas in a 2006 trade that sent pitcher Brandon McCarthy to the Rangers. Expected to join the club on Friday when the Reds open their series with the Nationals, he can both start and work from the bullpen. "We're really short on starting pitching," Jocketty said. "It gives us a little more depth. He'll be used initially out of the bullpen but he can also start." Richar, 25, has not played in the Major Leagues this season. As a rookie in 2007, he hit .230 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 56 games. He has spent the better part of six seasons in the Minors, most recently with Triple-A Charlotte, with which he was batting .262 with nine homers and 39 RBIs in 62 games. Following a prolific 11-year run with the Mariners from 1989-99 that saw him emerge as one of the game's all-time greats, Griffey asked for and received a trade to his hometown Reds on Feb. 10, 2000. Although he hit 210 homers with Cincinnati, it was a star-crossed stay. There were numerous serious injuries took their toll on Griffey's production. He never achieved the kind of success with the Reds that had he enjoyed in Seattle. The Reds have already begun the process of paying tribute to Griffey at Great American Ball Park. For the time being, a giant banner saluting his 600th homer will remain on display at the stadium's entrance, but with a thank you sign added. His home run counter in right-center field will also be altered to salute his time in Cincinnati.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.