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February 25, 2009 at 8:38 AM

Griffey deal not all about baseball

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It usually takes a few days for new baseball contracts to be filed with the MLB Players’ Association and when that happens, media contacts put out the specifics. Well, we now have the specifics on Ken Griffey Jr. and can start to understand why Seattle might have been a more attractive landing destination than Atlanta. I’m not doubting for an instant that Griffey wanted to complete the symmetry of moving back to the Emerald City.
But it’s also tough to ignore that his contract has the potential to be worth double the money just paid to Garret Anderson by the Braves. Anderson received a $2.5 million base salary deal from the Braves, with no incentives. Remember my source from last week who works for the Braves? The one who told me that team had no more than $2.5 million total to spend on Griffey or Anderson? He wasn’t kidding.
Griffey is receiving $2 million base from the M’s, which is what I was told the Braves were going to give him, plus another half-million in incentives.
But here in Seattle, the incentives package is a whole different ballgame — worth up to $3 million. And as long as he stays healthy, he has a good shot at attaining a chunk of it.
The Associated Press, which always gets hold of baseball contracts within days of them being officially filed, was the first to report Griffey’s $5 million in potential earnings.
Go to the excellent Cot’s baseball salary site, and you will now see the official breakdown on that $3 million.
If Griffey stays on the roster through July 31, he gets $50,000 each for paid attendance of 2.35 million, 2.4, 2.45, 2.55 and 2.6 million.
Should he last the entire season, he gets another $100,000 for each paid attendance of 2.65 million, 2.7, 2.75, 2.8, 2.95 and 3 million.
The M’s had 2.3 million fans last season, despite losing 101 games. Yes, a lot of those tickets came from packages bought before the season, when the M’s were touted as contenders. There also wasn’t a full blown recession on like there is right now. But still, 2.3 million is hardly setting the bar all that high for this franchise. If things remain equal from last year to start, Griffey could earn a few hundred grand just by drawing a handful of sellout crowds after Opening Day. Remember how bad attendance was for the team last April, with record low crowds every other night? That’s where Griffey could earn some big bucks this year if he packs the stands before his novelty wears off.
I can’t blame him, or the team, for a deal like this. It’s a win-win situation. And it’s a much better situation than the Braves were offering.
Where Griffey will really make some money is by landing at least 450 appearances, which causes $250,000 to kick in. If he gets 500 PA’s another $250,000 goes his way. Those are reachable incentives. Back in 2007, Griffey had 528 at-bats alone, and over 600 PAs.
Last season, even while hurting, he managed 490 at-bats — and easily made the PA target. So, that extra half-million should be his if he doesn’t try anything silly — like playing the outfield.
There are a bunch of smaller incentives for things like making the All-Star team, winning the Silver Slugger and stuff like this. Point is, this is a better deal than the Braves were offering. As long as Griffey doesn’t fall off a cliff offensively, this is easily a $2.5 million deal with room for more.
Not saying it’s entirely the reason he came here. It might only be a minor reason. But it’s time to tell it like it is:
— Seattle made a better financial offer than the Braves, tweaking the plate appearances (as his agent told us) in the end to help sweeten the package
— This isn’t purely a baseball decision by the Mariners. Those incentives make it clear the club feels Griffey might sell tickets and be willing to pay him for it.
Nothing wrong with any of that. But now, you have the more complete picture.



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