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February 14, 2009 at 8:33 PM

The scoop on Griffey

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I’ve been working the phones the past little while and can now tell you that the Atlanta Braves did indeed make a late push for Ken Griffey Jr. and are serious about taking him away from the Seattle Mariners.
How serious?
Well, less serious if the Mariners start throwing money around.
My sources tell me the Braves — who only began their pursuit of Griffey this past week — have no more than $2.5 million in wiggle room. That’s in base salary and total compensation they could throw Griffey’s way. Keep in mind, please, that “sources” within the game will sometimes underestimate these figures because they know full well they will end up in the newspaper and don’t want to outbid themselves in a public auction.
In other words, if they’re prepared to go $3 million, they want the player thinking $2.5 million is the limit.
I think it’s safe to say, though, that previous reports Griffey would earn up to $5 million have been greatly exaggerated.
One source told me he doubts the Braves could offer Griffey a base salary higher than “a million or two — at the very best.”
The same source quipped: “If Seattle wants Junior that badly, they should just pay him.”
In the past, the M’s might have thrown money around a la Jose Vidro just to get Griffey’s name on a uniform. But as I told you in the previous blog post, the M’s are being more budget conscious than usual this year in light of the economic downturn.
Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln did tell me this year’s budget isn’t carved in stone and that there could be a little room to move around and add a player. But not like last year, when Erik Bedard and his $7 million salary were added at the last minute.
Remember, Lincoln told us he bases much of the budget on forecasted ticket sales. The Mariners have obviously done some numbers crunching to see how many added millions Griffey could generate in ticket and merchandising sales. But it’s unclear whether that would be enough to justify going up all that much higher in any financial offer.
Nostalgia can be a tricky thing to sell. It doesn’t always work out the way people think it will.
That said, it would appear that, if the Mariners desperately feel they need Griffey to appease a fan base that felt he was on the verge of coming here, they can probably still do so. My sources tell me the Braves (no matter what Atlanta GM Frank Wren said earlier today) are only looking at two outfielders — Griffey and Garrett Anderson — and aren’t all that wedded to one or the other.
Griffey has told Braves officials that he really wants to play there. His daughter plays AAU basketball there, as was mentioned in an Atlanta Journal Constitution report today. But yes, Griffey did cite her as a reason for wanting to play in Atlanta. That city is also a short plane hop to his Orlando, Fla. home. We’re talking an hour or less.
But the Braves’ scouting department is apparently not convinced that either Griffey or Anderson could hold up physically while playing left field — even if platooned. That means they don’t feel either could face right handers in the full three-quarters of situations the Braves would be squaring off against such pitchers.
Atlanta only decided to go after Griffey this week because the Braves felt they needed a veteran bat that could be a positive clubhouse presence. But again, not a bat that was going to play as much as even a full-time lefty platoon player.
That’s why the salary offer to Griffey — we’re still not 100 percent sure that an official one has been made — won’t be going all that high.
In other words, if the M’s want him, he could probably be had for a slight “Griffey premium”. That’s the impression I’m getting.
The real question, I suppose, is the one folks have been asking for years. How badly does he really want to play here?
Because from what I’m seeing and hearing, neither team appears ready to engage in an all-out bidding war. And to the “loser” in this sweepstakes, obviously, will go Anderson. It will be interesting to see their comparative numbers at season’s end. For Seattle fans, though, this is obviously about more than mere numbers.
We’ll see. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik can always call the bluff here. Zduriencik can wait and see how serious Griffey is about going to Atlanta. And then, if it really is more about the money, hope the Braves balk on price and go for Anderson instead.
It takes a stomach of steel to do that with a rabid fan base bleating for action. I wouldn’t want to be part of a game like that too often.
Whatever happens…Lincoln had better fire up the “Hot Seat” and be prepared to strap himself in for the ride.

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