A Triumphant Return?

Every month, Griffey rumors tend to surface in Seattle. As we hit December, again they have started to swirl. Are the wheels turning on a deal that could land Junior back in a Mariners uniform? InsidethePark.com's Jason A. Churchill breaks down the latest on the Griffey front, and says the time may be now for the Reds to pull the trigger on a deal.

Recent reports out of Colorado indicate that the Rockies were hoping the Seattle Mariners would release third baseman Jeff Cirillo so that the National League West team could reacquire the veteran.

Evidently the M's have no plans to release him and eat the salary. Instead an M's rep has hinted heavily that they are close to completing a trade that would clear Jeff Cirillo and his salary off the M's books. No other word on the specific team except that it is not the Rockies, and it is likely an NL Central team.

This got me thinking. What team would take a chance on a veteran third baseman like Cirillo if it wasn't going to cost them much if anything, while ridding their own roster of a bad contract? Milwaukee? Maybe. Even after the Richie Sexson deal, they still are likely to try and find a taker for Geoff Jenkins. But taking Cirillo for Jenkins is redundant as Cirillo is guaranteed nearly twice as much as Jenkins, and a deal like that would require the M's to pay $6-7 million in cash to Milwaukee just to even it out. In that case it really makes no sense for Milwaukee to give away Jenkins.

Pittsburgh? Probably not. They have no bad contracts on the payroll and don't have a need for a veteran while they start over on the decade long rebuild.

St. Louis? Nah. They have Scott Rolen under contract for several years and have other cheaper options as a backup at the hot corner.

Houston? Maybe. Richard Hidalgo is due $12 million in 2004 before becoming a free agent and the Astros would love to unload the contract. But again, like the Jenkins idea, the Astros don't actually gain much from it.

Chicago Cubs? Highly unlikely. The club added Aramis Ramirez in a deal last July and have no contracts that fit the billing of "bad" and unworthy.

This leaves one team. The Queen City. Cincinnati. The home of Ken Griffey Jr. The Kid. It makes so much sense on both ends.

Personally, I'm still bitter about Junior's antics during the trade in 2000, but if the Reds are serious about clearing payroll for this year and the future, trading Griffey is the way to do it and it has much too high of a reward level to not take the risk from the M's standpoint. The reward on the Reds end is obvious; lots of payroll space and the roster spot to play youngsters like Willy Mo Pena.

The M's would most definitely require the Reds to pick up more in the financial area than just the $15 million owed to Cirillo. Griffey is owed $12.5 million per season through 2008 when he will be two months shy of his 39th birthday. In his contract, $6.5 million from his 2001 through 2008 salary is deferred and is scheduled to be paid starting in 2009 and ending in 2024. Seattle, known to not like the idea of deferring salary, would want the Reds to pay the 2001, 2002, and 2003 deferred payments as well as a portion of Junior's $12.5 million annual salary. In return, the Reds would get a virtually free Jeff Cirillo to play some third base, first base and a role on the bench. They would also likely get a pair of prospects.

A year ago I would have said there is absolutely no way a trade like this would ever happen. But since the two general managers involved in the original trade are no longer the chief personnel for either club, the option has opened up at least somewhat. The Reds lose leverage in any future deal with Griffey after the trade deadline on July 31, 2004. After the season is over Griffey regains 10-5 status, in which he can once again veto any trade. If the new front office wants a fresh start in Cincinnati, the time is now to make the move.

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