How much of a bargain does Griffey have to be?

DMZ · October 31, 2008 at 8:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Condensed Hickey: the M’s

could do a lot worse than bring Griffey back to Seattle with a low-cost, potentially high-reward contract for 2009.

It’s hard for me to grasp this, but Griffey will be 39 next season. Over the last three years, he’s played 132 games/year, averaged 482 at-bats, and hit about .260/.350/.470. If he’d agree to give up the field (and since his preference seems to be that he play center, then right grudgingly, that isn’t a given), that beats an average AL DH’s line of .256/.339/.435, but not by a lot. If we factor in a tiny bit of aging, Griffey would probably be worth 10-20 runs over picking some lumbering no-glove type off the transaction driftwood pile and stuffing them into the slot.

That’s worth $5-10m on a one-year deal if you get 162 games out of him. But considering that you still need to find some way to get another 30 DH games out of there, there’s another discount you need to get to make this a break-even proposition, and now you’re at $4m-$8m.

Anything beyond that has to be the M’s getting money back in non-baseball reasons from Griffey love, and we’ve touched on this before — this kind of thing might get them a brief spike, but it’s not as if there’ll be a massive swell of season-ticket buyers renewing over this news. Otherwise it’s faith in a year-39 career resurgence for Griffey based on things like “Safeco Field was designed for him” (though he didn’t like hitting here) and feel-good wishing.

I don’t think Griffey will sign anywhere for a contract low enough to make it what Hickey wants here. A bargain contract based on his likely contributions as a DH, say a 50% discount to the value he’d contribute on the field would mean he signs a one-year, $2-$4m deal. That seems unlikely on its face. That the M’s have done much worse, as Hickey notes, doesn’t mean that they can’t do much better.

Comments

103 Responses to “How much of a bargain does Griffey have to be?”

  1. eponymous coward on October 31st, 2008 1:58 pm

    Then again, there are still people hanging on just barely making it to the ALCS over ten years ago as if it were the best thing to happen in baseball EVER.

    Yeah, the 1951 Giants lost to the Yankees in the World Series 4-1, so obviously, the 1951 NL had no compelling stories.

    Seriously? You take your joy where you can find it, especially when you’re a fan of a franchise that spent 19 years kicking you in the teeth, then gave you less than a decade of good teams that couldn’t quite get over the hump, and now is back to kicking you in the teeth again, this time with steel-toed boots.

    The cure to getting past 1995 and 2001 is to actually win it all. Until then… expect some misty-eyed nostalgia.

  2. msb on October 31st, 2008 2:02 pm

    While the spring training site is technically true, I don’t recall that ever being mentioned as a reason at the time.

    it was– in the last weeks before the trade Gillick looked at all the teams that trained in Florida (much to the irritation of Griffey’s agent, who announced “The last two weeks, the Mariners have known their only option was Cincinnati”)

  3. Wishhiker on October 31st, 2008 2:09 pm

    Most of the people that want Griffey back also want Raul back and therefore in my estimation know little enough of building a winning club for me to not care what they think.

  4. ernier on October 31st, 2008 2:32 pm

    I think the team needs to be creative in trying to stock up the farm system. We took an over the hill lefty coming off major arm surgey and turned into Gaby Hernandez. I know the M’s didn’t plan this, but nevertheless they added a young pitching prospect who throws 90+. Maybe they can do something similar with Jr. He might just be productive enough as a DH to be able to move to a contender at the deadline for a prospect. I get the point about taking AB’s away from young guys, but do we really want them playing DH full time.

  5. Mike Snow on October 31st, 2008 2:37 pm

    Okay, that one was good. After all the heartache of last time, it would be surreal to see what happens if the Mariners ended up trading Griffey again.

  6. BBOneFive on October 31st, 2008 2:38 pm

    ernier, that’s a solid strategy. However, it usually works best with players who have been tossed on the scrap heap who actually have the “ability” to still produce. The sad fact with Griffey is his ability is all but gone.

  7. Wishhiker on October 31st, 2008 2:39 pm

    If Griffey were to be brought in to just be traded it’d defeat the purpose of bringing him back to retire here and making a move in hopes that something would happen that there’s no statistical data to reasonably support that thing happening is a bad move. Nobody would neccessarily be DHing full-time. The best way to do it would be to have multiple options at each position so that everyone can be rested and the DH spot is open for the best matchup who’d otherwise have the day off.

  8. BBOneFive on October 31st, 2008 2:42 pm

    If Griffey were to be brought in to just be traded it’d defeat the purpose of bringing him back to retire here and making a move in hopes that something would happen that there’s no statistical data to reasonably support that thing happening is a bad move

    Holy run-on sentence, Batman!

  9. ivan on October 31st, 2008 3:19 pm

    Look, the Mariners need another left-handed bat, even if it’s just to platoon against right-handers or to pinch-hit and fill on in the OF as a stopgap.

    If the man can still hit, and run even a little, he needs a look. You know he wants to play here. Some of his best memories are here. This is the organization he came up with.

    I’m for rolling the dice with injuries. Who can forget the excitement we all felt when this rookie burst onto the scene? The team owes him another shot, and the fans need to hope he can regain some of the magic we all knew was there.

    Bring back Chris Snelling.

  10. diderot on October 31st, 2008 3:29 pm

    We need to have any left-handed hitter in the organization get at bats before Griffey. From the perspective of building a winning team, he is unquestionably a step backwards rather than forwards.
    If that serves the ‘misty watercolor memories’ for some, then great, but you can’t make this a logical argument.

  11. MarinerDan on October 31st, 2008 3:30 pm

    Bring back Chris Snelling.

    Come on. Doyle makes Mr. Glass look like Cal Ripken.

  12. ivan on October 31st, 2008 3:41 pm

    Haha, spoofed you. Bringing back Doyle makes about as much sense as bringing back Griffey.

  13. PositivePaul on October 31st, 2008 3:47 pm

    I love baseball as much as anybody, but the mindless nostalgia needs to stop.

    Wow! I mean, wow! I don’t think you were referring to this site specifically (in asking people, as moderator at USSM, to stop posting mindless nostalgia), so I’m going to step in a little bit. If you were talking about specifically here at USSM, then, you have every right to proceed (and so ignore what I’m about to say)…

    After all – baseball is in the long run a completely meaningless game. A source of entertainment with heroes and villains and stuff like that. Mindless nostalgia is a huge part of what draws a lot of folks into the game in the first place. And what keeps people coming through the lean years.

    You may not be a nostalgic type, but there are lots and lots of paying fans who are. No, it’s not the best way to build a team, and even business-wise (capitalizing on people’s nostalgic sentiment) it might not make much sense.

    But to suggest that people surrender nostalgia as part of their baseball fandom is to completely take away one of the main purposes of baseball in the first place…

  14. Jeff Nye on October 31st, 2008 4:01 pm

    As far as me being a mod, I don’t set policy, so don’t make that mistake.

    I said “mindless” nostalgia for a reason though; and really, just because the MAGICAL 1995 SEASON is the best thing that the Mariners fanbase has to be nostalgic about, doesn’t necessarily mean that it merits the level of reverence it receives.

    (and yes, I’m aware of the whole “saving baseball in Seattle argument”, etc etc)

    Even still, if people want to gush about it, that’s all well and good; but when we’re talking about things like bringing back Griffey, hiring Joey Cora as manager, and other silliness just because of nebulous connections to that MAGICAL 1995 SEASON, nostalgia isn’t in its proper place anymore.

    You know what’d make me nostalgic? Being able to eventually look back on watching the Mariners win a World Series.

    In my mind, barely scraping into the playoffs in the first place with a record a few games over .500, and then barely scraping into the ALCS where they got trounced by Cleveland, doesn’t qualify as something to be nostalgic about.

  15. ThundaPC on October 31st, 2008 4:20 pm

    Ugh. After thinking about it for a while, I’m not really behind the idea of bringing back Griffey. At least, not at the expense of trying to field the best team possible.

    We’ve spent years watching this ballclub bring in guys for either the wrong reasons or as a result of bad analysis. It wouldn’t kill me if Griffey was brought here for cheap but the club really needs to focus on putting out the best product possible.

  16. MarinerDan on October 31st, 2008 4:21 pm

    Haha, spoofed you. Bringing back Doyle makes about as much sense as bringing back Griffey.

    No, I understood the analogy, I just wanted to make a Mr. Glass reference.

    I have a soft spot for Unbreakable.

  17. Typical Idiot Fan on October 31st, 2008 4:31 pm

    Paul, I think what Jeff is trying to say is don’t let your decisions be overly influenced by the nostalgia. Griffey was great once, but that is not now. Just because we love the guy doesn’t mean that love should overrule common sense.

    I would love to see Griffey retire a Mariner, and I don’t really mind bringing him in for a last hurrah for just that reason. I wept like a little baby when Edgar made his round trip slapping hands with fans at SafeCo Field, and I would love to see all of our old Mariner heroes get that chance. However, like the others here, I don’t want that to mean Griffey comes in and struggles and looks bad. I want to remember Ken Griffey Jr as he was, not what he is.

  18. CC03 on October 31st, 2008 4:53 pm

    Even though it might not be the smartest thing in the world to bring Jr back, I just can’t say no to it. Not to Jr.

    I’m not necessarily clamoring for Jr to come back, but if Jr wanted to come back I certainly wouldn’t say no.

  19. dchappelle on October 31st, 2008 5:06 pm

    Bringing Jr back would be great. The veteran grit, the clubhouse presense… even Ichiro loves him. He could bridge the gap and make it a cohesive unit.

    Seriously though, he’ll probably be better than whoever else we DH and actually cause people to go to some games.

    And he’ll probably just get injured and miss most of the season anyways…

    I also like Dave’s suggestion “For the huge portion of the fanbase that loves Griffey, I hope he does retire a Mariner. It just makes more sense for that to happen in 2009 and not 2007. ” link

  20. cheeseheadtransplantmax on October 31st, 2008 5:09 pm

    I kind of witnessed the Seattle/Griffey situation from afar, so my judgement is not clouded by nostalgia (not that it is bad). Getting Griffey does not seem to make sense to me, since last year he hit slightly below league DH average (though he wasn’t a dh full time), hits poorly against lefties, and seems fragile. Rolling the dice with 4-8 million dollars on somebody that at will give you around average hitting at dh for 130 games at best does not seem worth it. I personally would much rather see a Brad Nelson playing there. By the way, would Zduriencik’s hiring increase the chance of a Milwaukee trade?
    Just a thought. Like I say, though, I can only begin to see what Griffey meant to this city, so who knows…

  21. Adam S on October 31st, 2008 5:21 pm

    Over the last three years, he’s played 132 games/year, averaged 482 at-bats, and hit about .260/.350/.470.
    I don’t believe you wrote that and used it as a basis for what he might do in 2009. The three-year average gives way too much weight to what he did in 2006 and the first half of 2007 and under weights what’s he done since.

    I’d really like to see Griffey come back for one season, both to finish as a Mariner and to help the team by being a league average DH or slightly better, given our void in LF/DH/1B at present. But sadly, Griffey’s power is gone — 25 HR in 730 AB since last all-star break and 3 in 130 AB with the White Sox. He’s a 260/350/410 hitter despite playing in a hitters park in a weaker league. He’s essentially a replacement level DH not league average and worth a flier at $1M, though he won’t take that.

    I hope he retires for his own sake.

  22. DMZ on October 31st, 2008 5:34 pm

    Why don’t you believe it? The thing about three-year averages is that they get to you to ~90% of a PECOTA-level forecast. For what I was writing about (whether a general Griffey contract value looked like) it’s good enough.

    And then I did talk about age later.. but anyway. We can talk about how the waiting errors, but my point was that if you take a fairly rough stab at his value, he’s not going to end up a low-cost, high-reward signing.

  23. FauxLife on October 31st, 2008 5:50 pm

    Griffey would be a steal at any price. Everybody knows the Mariners are going to be an under .500 team next season, why not give the fans something to come to the ballpark to see? Why not send off one of the biggest icons in Seattle history with proper respect?

    Everyone with a working brain realizes Griffey isn’t half the player he used to be, but not many 39 year olds are.

    Saunders can play LF/RF. Halman isn’t ready. Reed has already shown he doesn’t have enough talent. Wlad doesn’t project to be a very valuable player in Safeco. Ichiro can play CF. We don’t have a player who currently projects as a DH. All other future prospects that may be drafted this season or are currently in the minors probably will not project to play in 2009 at all.

    There are 2 spots open for Griffey if he wants to return, and if he wants to retire as a Mariner next year I say let him. At least it will give us something interesting to watch next season since everyone is already shouting “rebuilding season” from the mountain tops.

    I’d rather watch him than much of the no talent garbage we have on the team currently. That’s for goddamn sure.

  24. DMZ on October 31st, 2008 5:55 pm

    So paying Griffey $20m would be a steal. $30m. You could give him Manny money and it would be a steal.

    Okay! Let’s go do that.

  25. FauxLife on October 31st, 2008 5:58 pm

    What the hell do I care? It’s one season, and one that doesn’t project to be very interesting sans Felix, Morrow, Ichiro. Give him 100 million. Maybe Nintendo is nostalgic too, and they want him to make another video game.

  26. Jeff Nye on October 31st, 2008 6:02 pm

    How about…ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS?

    *pinkie to lips*

  27. DMZ on October 31st, 2008 6:13 pm

    If the M’s give Griffey $20m and don’t spend a dime on international signings, minor league free agents, or some nice …

    you know, never mind. I give up. GIFFEY 2oo9: NO MATTER THE COST!!!oneone

  28. marinersintheblood on October 31st, 2008 6:32 pm

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while, and there’s one thing about your analysis I don’t understand:

    You consistently compare a player’s stats to the average for that position, and if they are not significantly better, the assumption is that you can pick up someone off “the transaction driftwood pile” who would perform at the average.

    But aren’t the players on the “transaction driftwood pile” there, for the most part, because their performance is below average?

    I’m sure there are occasional aberrations – the result of decent players who just don’t fit with their team’s direction, etc., and certainly these are the deals smart GMs keep their eyes out for. But it seems far less than a certainty – and, in fact, perhaps even a mathematical impossibility – that players who perform at the league average are always, endlessly available.

    Aren’t there times when paying a little extra to get a player who performs at the league average – especially on a team that consistently performs well below the league average – would be a good idea?

  29. DMZ on October 31st, 2008 6:39 pm

    Hey, good question.

    There are two comparisons being made here, and I see where this is confusing. There’s average, and there’s the freely-available guy, commonly referred to as the “replacement-level” player. Here, I’m using both: talking about his offense compared to the positional average, and then how much more he’d contribute compared to the replacement guy.

    A replacement guy, as you note, is below-average. Like Matt Stairs, a .250/.342/.394 hitter, only contributed ~5 more than a freely available signee (Stairs being a pretty good example of the floating DH candidates out there). Butler’s about at the same level.

  30. Wishhiker on October 31st, 2008 6:57 pm

    I was curious where Griffey sat in career leaderboards so I looked up what he could do if the FO decides to give him a 1 year + Option contract. On career statistics it would take him 79 Runs to move in the top 25 (not likely in one season), 53 Hits to move into the top 50 (331 for top 25), 39 2B to be top 25 (not likely in one season), 50 HR to pass Mays for 4th All-Time (not likely in even 2 seasons) 41 RBI to move up one spot past Frank Robinson into 17th (62 to get in top 15), 41 Extra base hits would move him up 4 places into 6th All time…

  31. tealfan444 on October 31st, 2008 7:29 pm

    I usually couldnt care less about nostalgia..

    However, my mindset right now, is that barring some trade or major FA pickup.. this team cannot contend in 2009 therefore Im not gonna get bend out of shape if the best Mariner of all-time is brought back for a his final days..

    I would have serious issue with it, if he was going to be taking ABs from players who could factor into our future..

    However, who would he be taking ABs from at the DH spot?? Morse? Johjima on his off days?

    If you put him in the outfield a day or two.. who is he blocking? Who is he takings ABs from? Reed??

    While he certainly wouldnt be a contributor or anybody i would normally want to see play OF or even be on my team… next yr is a rebuilding yr, and we need a couple bodies to take ABs..

    Im sorry but we do not have high level minor league talent, that he’s blocking.. so unless you want to see Reed or Morse get those ABs, im not really seeing how getting Griffey for a yr really stunts the growth of this team

  32. esp on October 31st, 2008 8:24 pm

    Ibanez is gone, we need the draft picks. We need a couple left handed bats, we have no DH, we have no veteran leadership. Bring back Griffey.

  33. Steve T on October 31st, 2008 10:03 pm

    All this talk about Griffey, yet no one talks about the real hope: a return to the FELIX FERMIN YEARS. Come ON, people!

  34. Steve T on October 31st, 2008 10:04 pm

    Excuse me — “year”, not “years”. But still.

  35. thekid24 on October 31st, 2008 10:45 pm

    I suppose I should weigh in on this…

    I don’t think the M’s should waste their money on Griffey. He’s not the real answer to any short-term or long-term problems. But if the management disagrees and wants to sign him I at least hope they look at things from this angle:

    The Mariners 1st basemen in 2008 were:
    Richie Sexson .218/.315/.381
    Miguel Cairo .249/.316/.330
    Bryan LaHair .250/.315/.346

    Can we all agree none of those three should be back?

    Compared to:
    Ken Griffey, Jr. .249/.353/.424

    Eh.. Not great but better splits overall.

    At this point there is no viable option to plug in at that position, unless you plan on moving Jeff Clement. However, he needs more time behind the plate – or if you must, put him at DH.

    Griffey is a disaster in the outfield but could really be a natural fit at 1B. He still moves fluidly (but is slow) and his glove and arm strength are both fine. I think he would clearly be better at first base than just about any other converted outfielder.

    Now, about salary…

    The first thing to do is an analysis of attendance increases and merchandise sales. Take that dollar amount and add $4 million and that’s what you offer him. No more. My best guess is that would be a figure of about $6-$7 million.

    Your average $4 million replacement player probably won’t give you the .353 OBP or the .424 SLG, and you won’t be saddled with a long-term deal if he gets hurt.

    Also, bringing in Jr would definitely mean Raul is gone and combined with the two first rounders you get by letting Fields walk you put yourself in a nice spot down the line.

    You’re not wasting ABs for anyone in ’09 and by the time the M’s are ready to really contend he’ll have retired. If you buy into clubhouse dynamics it could also be nice because it would take pressure off of Ichiro to be the team spokesman.

    If things don’t work out then you haven’t lost much. Ideally your first baseman of the future is a 22 year old slugging away in AA this season.

  36. Jeff Nye on October 31st, 2008 10:48 pm

    I don’t know why people have this expectation that Griffey is going to sign here cheaply.

    He’s always had an ego and will expect to be paid like the superstar he still thinks he is.

  37. msb on October 31st, 2008 11:03 pm

    hiring Joey Cora as manager

    how would you feel about hiring him because he worked his way up to being a managerial candidate?

    Why not send off one of the biggest icons in Seattle history with proper respect?

    how respectful would it be to bring in someone to play below-average ball in front of the fanbase that has glowing memories of his youth?

    He’s always had an ego and will expect to be paid like the superstar he still thinks he is.

    I’m betting that these days it is first is contending team, second is money and third is still proximity to home

  38. Jeff Nye on November 1st, 2008 12:00 am

    If Cora turned out to be the best managerial candidate because of his skills and qualifications, that’d be fine.

    But that wouldn’t be why he’d get hired here.

  39. Benne on November 1st, 2008 12:24 am

    Do people really expect a nearly-39-year-old, who’s played outfield his whole life and is kind of a disaster now, to pick up a 1B glove and learn the position overnight? It’s crazy talk.

    Just say “no” to Griffey. Stop living in the past.

  40. The Ancient Mariner on November 1st, 2008 7:04 am

    He’s always had an ego and will expect to be paid like the superstar he still thinks he is.

    That would be the reason this won’t happen. (At least, I hope it won’t. L&A might be that stupid, but I’d be shocked if Zduriencik is.) I’d be happy to have Griffey as the Roberto Petagine Memorial Bench Bat, but I agree that I don’t see his ego accepting that role (or paycheck). At least, not unless he goes unemployed for a while first — and maybe not even then.

  41. msb on November 1st, 2008 7:44 am

    Larry Stone has quotes from Brian Goldberg including the hopeful note:

    “Goldberg said White Sox GM Ken Williams indicated a willingness to talk to Griffey about coming back at a reduced salary.

    “Junior still wants to talk to the White Sox,” he said.”

  42. jayzlvr on November 1st, 2008 10:16 am

    I say give him a shot next year-other than that storyline what else will get you exicted to watch M’s baseball again. I fear we are entering a long period of suckiness….we’ll need a few of these type signings to help bridge the gap til we have a respectable team.

  43. smatbte51 on November 1st, 2008 10:46 am

    To me this would be a very smart move for the Mariners bringing Junior back. I think it’s a given that we will struggle again in 2009 but if we at least had Junior back it wouldn’t be as bad.

  44. Xteve X on November 1st, 2008 11:28 am

    A crap team with Griffey isn’t any more appealing to me.

    There is absolutely no reason to bring him back other than cynical exploitation of the nostalgia minded.

    If watching Jr. take 200-300 AB with a gigantic fork sticking out of his back is Seattle’s idea of entertaining baseball then this fanbase really has become desperate.

  45. Jeff Nye on November 1st, 2008 12:05 pm

    what else will get you exicted to watch M’s baseball again

    Ichiro? Felix? Morrow? Beltre?

  46. jayzlvr on November 1st, 2008 2:06 pm

    OK….four twenty fifths of the team will put butts in the seats and play at a level that will be worthy of attention. What about the rest? Between flailing prospects and AAAA filler we’ll surely see I’m not sure that will capture our attention or imagination any more than what played out this year. My preference would be to spice it up a little while wait for the kids to develop.

  47. diderot on November 1st, 2008 2:25 pm

    clubhouse leader

    “Where is MY pitching!?”

    Sure the staff loved hearing that vote of confidence from their ‘leader’.

  48. Jeff Nye on November 1st, 2008 2:32 pm

    Griffey might spice things up for a couple of weeks until he either gets hurt, or just plain shows that he’s a 39 year old DH that can’t run anymore.

    Griffey’s glory days are gone and aren’t coming back.

  49. scott19 on November 1st, 2008 3:16 pm

    If watching Jr. take 200-300 AB with a gigantic fork sticking out of his back is Seattle’s idea of entertaining baseball then this fanbase really has become desperate.

    Oh, c’mon…it’s easily right up there on-par for “entertainment value” with one of Mike Tyson’s numerous “comebacks” in front of a hundred people or so at some riverboat casino somewhere.

  50. joser on November 1st, 2008 4:25 pm

    Yeah, it’s one game so it’s small sample theater in the extreme, but how did Griffey do in the ALCS elimination game, arguably the most (or, depending on your opinion of certain other games, the second-most) important game of his career?
    1st AB: made an out, FC
    2nd AB: struck out swinging
    3rd AB: struck out swinging
    4th AB, bottom of the 9th, two out: struck out swinging.

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