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'There's no chance at all'

Reds pull out of Griffey trade talks with Mariners

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Posted: Sunday December 12, 1999 02:58 PM

  Ken Griffey Ken Griffey Jr. may have to wait until he is a free agent next season if he wants to play for the Reds. AP

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The Cincinnati Reds' pursuit of Ken Griffey Jr. turned out to be pure Fantasyland.

Repeating his frustration a dozen times, Reds general manager Jim Bowden broke off trade talks with the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, adding: "We have a better chance of bringing Goofy back than Griffey."

"There's no chance at all. Zero. It's behind us," Bowden said. "There was no use continuing.

"We wouldn't have wasted five hours a day for three months not trying to acquire him. But we didn't move a centimeter, let alone an inch," he said.

Bowden had made it his mission to travel to the winter meetings, being held only a few blocks from Disneyland, and return with the 10-time All-Star center fielder. Bowden even called Griffey "my personal favorite player."

But after talking with Mariners GM Pat Gillick, Bowden said there was no chance of reuniting Junior with his father, Reds coach Ken Sr.

The Reds' decision not to include young second baseman Pokey Reese in a possible trade appeared to be the deal-breaker.

"It certainly was an opportunity for them to acquire one of the best players in the game," Gillick said. "If you'd been unsuccessful, I'd think you would be frustrated or upset.

"That's a natural reaction that you'd sound that way," he said.

Gillick, though, did not completely rule out a future talk with the Reds.

"I don't think you can ever shut the door on anything," he said.

Gillick said he talked to three other teams about Griffey, saying, "We had an excellent meeting with the Mets."

Mets GM Steve Phillips also spoke with Bowden. "He was still a little wired," Phillips said.

Griffey, 30, asked the Mariners to trade him this offseason and they are trying to accommodate him. Seattle spoke to Houston and St. Louis earlier this year, but could not make a match.

Griffey remains eligible for free agency after next season, and Bowden said the Reds might make another run at him then if he's available.

Griffey has 398 home runs and many think he might break Hank Aaron's career record of 755. Bowden had envisioned Griffey doing it in Cincinnati, the place where his dad played on the Big Red Machine, at the Reds' new ballpark.

"The reason I had a little bit of optimism at one point, although they didn't move off their demands, was when I had a conversation with [Mariners president] Chuck Armstrong last Friday, I felt possibly from a negotiating perspective they considered blinking at that point. But it never happened," Bowden said.

Bowden said one of the Reds' offers included five players. Yet even with young pitchers Scott Williamson and Danny Graves being dangled, the Mariners did not bite.

"I would make the deal in their shoes," Bowden said.

Bowden did not mention Reese by name, but said 'there was a certain player' the Reds had told Seattle it would not trade.

So, Cincinnati gave up on Griffey.

"There's no other player I'd rather acquire," Bowden said. "But we're not paid for personal decisions, we're paid for professional decisions.

"It's not rotisserie baseball. It's more like the real thing."

There were two trades, albeit of a much lesser nature -- the Chicago Cubs sent backup infielder Manny Alexander to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Damon Buford, and Cincinnati acquired outfielder Kimera Bartee from Detroit for a player to be named or cash.

Other deals were in the works, too. Tampa Bay was talking about sending pitcher Rolondo Arrojo to Anaheim for outfielder Garret Anderson, although the Devil Rays also were discussing a deal with Detroit.

The New York Yankees remained the only team without any representative at the meeting, owner George Steinbrenner having decided the World Series champions didn't need to attend.

One of the Yankees' top prospects, Class AA first baseman Nick Johnson, was in the lobby of the hotel, however. In town for a golf event to promote minor league ball, Johnson was surveying the scene as GMs prowled on the lookout for deals.

"That's how it works?" he said. "Wow, that's pretty neat."

The Cubs were the busiest team so far. On Friday, they reached tentative agreement with free agent catcher Joe Girardi on a three-year contract and then made a trade with Boston to get Buford.

"This is something we've been looking to do, trying to become a better defensive team," new Cubs manager Don Baylor said. "We needed somebody in center field to catch the ball."

Buford, who agreed earlier in the week to a $2.2 million, two-year contract, has made just nine errors in 899 chances in seven major league seasons with Baltimore, the New York Mets, Texas and Boston.

Buford, 29, hit .242 with six homers, 38 RBIs and nine steals this season. The Cubs plan to bat him leadoff after earlier releasing Lance Johnson.

Alexander, 28, was a top reserve for the Cubs, batting .271. Two weeks ago, Chicago signed him to a one-year contract worth $612,500.

The Reds, who had talked about sending outfielder Mike Cameron to Seattle in a package for Griffey, added another outfielder in Bartee, 27. He hit .195 with three RBIs in 77 at-bats for the Tigers.


 
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Reds general manager Jim Bowden says this won’t be the last time they pursue Ken Griffey. Jr. (57 K)
Bowden found no reason to continue negotiations with Seattle. (182 K)
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