Jocketty says it's 'a little bit premature' to discuss Griffey trade
CINCINNATI -- Suggestions that the struggling Cincinnati Reds might trade outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. during the season are premature, general manager Walt Jocketty said Tuesday without ruling out that it could happen.
The 38-year-old outfielder is in the final guaranteed year of his contract. The Reds have an option to keep him next year for $16.5 million, and could buy out the option for $4 million.
The club's poor start has sparked speculation that Griffey and others could be traded in July if things don't improve on the field. The Reds are 13-21 after a 3-0 loss the the Cubs, already in last place in the NL Central.
Griffey would have the right to block any trade. He said Tuesday that if the club comes to him at some point, he would listen.
"I think it's a little bit premature," Jocketty said in response. "I have had no trade discussions with him. I'm not saying that couldn't happen, but it just hasn't at this point."
Reds fans are wondering whether Jocketty will make major changes to a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2000, Griffey's first year in Cincinnati. Impatient owner Bob Castellini fired general manager Wayne Krivsky after the club started 9-12, replacing him with Jocketty.
Two of Jocketty's biggest decisions will involve Griffey and left fielder Adam Dunn, who gets paid $13 million in the final year on his deal. If the club is out of contention at midseason, both outfielders would be attractive in trade talks.
Griffey isn't lobbying for a trade, but would listen if the team asked him to approve one. As a player with 10 years of experience in the majors, including five with the same team, he would have the final say.
If the Reds get back into contention, the trade speculation would dry up.
"I'm here," Griffey said. "Yes, I have control over where I go. That's about it. That's pretty much all the control I have. But I can go out there and control how I play.
"If I go out and do my job, it will take care of itself. If I don't, then something may happen. But I'm not going to sit here and worry about anything else. So I'm going to go out there and play as hard as I can until they come in and say, 'We may want to do this.'"
Former general manager Jim Bowden traded to get Griffey from Seattle before the 2000 season, then tried to trade him to San Diego in a deal involving Phil Nevin after the 2002 season. Nevin blocked that deal.
Bowden claimed he was working on a deal to trade Griffey to the Yankees shortly before the Reds fired him as general manager midway through the 2003 season.
When Griffey returned to Seattle for an interleague series last June, he suggested he would like to retire as a Mariner. He pointed out that when running back Emmitt Smith was done playing, he signed a deal with Dallas so he could officially retire as a member of the Cowboys.
He repeated the comment as part of a story in USA Today on Tuesday, but said no one should read anything into the timing of it.
"I said the exact same thing last year, so why is it such a big story now?" Griffey said. "If I would have changed anything from last year, it would be a story, but I said the same thing."
Griffey thinks the Reds could get back into contention by midseason. Dunn (.216, five homers) and Griffey (.238, four homers) are among those who have struggled. But Griffey did have two hits on Tuesday.
"If we were 15 games above .500 and we hit this streak, would anybody say anything?" Griffey said. "Because it happened the first month, everybody hits the panic button. We've got five months of baseball left."
"I still think the season is salvageable," Jocketty said. "A lot of it [is] I think guys are pressing. The key to this is trying to run off a few wins and take a little bit of the pressure off."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press