February 10, 2000: Ken Griffey, Jr., is traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds for Jake Meyer (minors), Mike Cameron, Antonio Perez and Brett Tomko.

To add to the transaction above, please keep in mind that Greg Vaughn was granted free agency on October 28, 1999, and signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on December 13, 1999.

Then read this detailed timeline of the Griffey trade, which includes the initial list of players requested by the Mariners.

The Reds had come within one game of the postseason in 1999, losing the one game playoff with the Mets for the wildcard spot in the league divisional series. Vaughn had been the team inspirational leader and home run king with 45 home runs, but the Reds had already been in a cost cutting mode for several years and 1999 trade acquisitions Vaughn and starting pitcher Juan Guzman both filed for free agency. Based on the transaction information, and the Griffey timeline, Vaughn files for free agency on October 28, and within a week Griffey announces that he wants to be traded. Vaughn’s contract with the Devil Rays is announced during the winter meetings where the Reds and Mariners are negotiating their trade in earnest.

In the meantime, the Reds had traded for another slugging outfielder, Dante Bichette, who was coming off a season where he batted .298 with 34 home runs and 133 rbi for the Colorado Rockies. A four-time all-star, Bichette’s best season had been 1995 when he led the league with 40 homers and 128 rbi and a .620 slugging percentage and had collected 219 hits in 1998. He had hit 30 or more homers in three of the previous five seasons with the Rockies. The Reds received Bichette in exchange for relief pitcher Stan Belinda and outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds. This trade was completed the day after Vaughn filed for free agency.

In essence, Bichette replaced Greg Vaughn in the Reds lineup as the team’s power hitter and run producer while the Reds were pursuing Griffey. As Great American Ballpark was being designed, it was said the design was to help Griffey break Hank Aaron’s career home run record with a relatively short right field fence. The trade for Griffey cost the Reds their 1999 centerfielder Mike Cameron, who had played well in the field for the Reds in 1999 while batting .256 with 21 home runs and an .825 OPS. Cameron had been acquired from the White Sox for Paul Konerko the year before. Reds manager Jack McKeon had trumpeted the Cameron deal for he felt the outfield defense had been terrible in 1998.

Ken Griffey, Jr, was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He had slugged 398 home runs in 11 seasons with the Mariners before coming to the Reds in 2000, had won 10 Gold Gloves, appeared in 10 all-star games, won one MVP award, and finished in the top five in MVP balloting five times. He had led the American League in home runs four times, in rbi once, and slugging percentage once. And, he had dictated his trade to the Reds, where the deal seemed like a steal.

The Reds had to give up Cameron and starting pitcher Brett Tomko. Tomko was a Cincinnati Red rarity, a starting pitcher developed in the Reds’ system. Tomko had won 31 games with the Reds in three years, but was in a constant battle with manager McKeon, who questioned Tomko’s work ethic and desire. Tomko won 10 games for the Mariners in two seasons before moving to the Padres. He’s still active in his 13th major league season having won 96 games in his career.

Antonio Perez was a top infield prospect for the Reds who was later caught up in the Dominican Republic “age-gate” scandal. Perez never played for the Mariners, but was dealt to the Devil Rays. He had played 216 major league games through 2006. He batted .102 in his last season with the Athletics (109 plate appearances). Jake Meyer was a career minor league pitcher who pitched for 10 minor league seasons through 2006, but won only 19 minor league games, mainly as a reliever.

Cameron is still active as a very good centerfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 15 major league seasons, he has played for six different teams and has a career .250 batting average, 256 home runs, and has won three Gold Gloves. He is a strike out machine, having struck out in nearly 25% of his plate appearances, but does sport a lifetime OPS of .789.

In Griffey’s first year with the Reds he batted .271 with 40 homers and 118 rbi, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Reds as they finished second to the Cardinals, 10 games behind. Out of the mountain air brought Bichette down to sea level reality, as the home run totals lowered to 16 for the Reds but witha fine .295 batting average before being traded to the Red Sox in August. The second place finished cost manager Jack McKeon his job and led to the hiring of Bob Boone as Reds manager. That didn’t help either as the Reds fell to fifth in 2000, and have not had a winning record since that time. Griffey began a series of debilitating injuries that cost him several hundred games during his time with Cincinnati; he never played more than the 145 he played in his first season with the Reds.

Griffey had taken a “hometown” discount when he signed a multi-year contract with the Reds. The value of the contract seemed to escalate as injuries took their toll and limited Griffey’s time on the field. Griffey also voluntarily restructured his contract to give the Reds budget room to improve their team with additional players. Griffey played nine seasons with the Reds, batting .270 with 210 home runs. He hit his 600th career home run while with the Reds franchise. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox late in the 2008 season and is still active today back with the Mariners. The Reds received reliever Nick Masset and infielder Danny Richar in the trade.

23 Responses

  1. Travis G.

    Man, it’s too bad mlbtraderumors.com wasn’t around for that saga. I’d about forgotten all those twists and turns those negotiations took.

    Gillick overplayed his hand almost as badly as Ricciardi did with Halladay.

  2. RiverCity Redleg

    It’s a shame Jr had so many injuries. He just wasn’t the same player after that and couldn’t live up to everyone’s lofty expectations. Looking back now, I think he is owed some respect for doing what he did w/out ever being linked to PEDs.

  3. brublejr

    So they finish 2nd place and Jack is fired and Boone is brought in….hmmm, sounds like there was the beginning of the downfall right there.

    The trade really was a great trade for the Reds, but could you imagine if they traded away what Seattle wanted at first, goodness, they were asking for the moon.

  4. Steve Price

    In the book “Big Red Dynasty”, Bob Howsam describes how he made his deals. (I hope I remember this right–correct me where wrong please)

    1) There was a weekly “war room” meeting where Howsam, Sparky Anderson, Ray Shore (chief scout) and others would get together and rank every starting player per team in each league in order and “count” the points to determine the overall strength of the team. That gives equal weight per position, which which I don’t necessarily agree, but it’s a great start.

    2) They had a wall chart (hidden by curtain) in Howsam’s office of “balanced” trades they could offer each team for players they wanted, and they had the “potential” trades ranked in order of priority for them to pursue.

    3) When discussing these potential deals with other teams, Howsam would bring up the other team’s weakness(es) first and then mention what players the other team would have that the Reds were interested in. Then they would ask who the other team would want and start the negotiation there.

    It sounds to me like Gillick may have been doing this. If I had been Bowden I would have been tempted to say…I can wait for Griffey’s free agency if you want…

  5. Steve Price

    What I take from the Griffey trade is the unreliability of age 30 players and free agency. That’s been an adage for decades, and Frank Robinson was traded under this “principle” or so it was said.

    Team control of a player is huge. The team has them for six years (including arbitration)and when free agency hits they’re typically near 30 years old. So, when a player signs his “free agent” contract he’s usually entering his decline years and is being paid for past performance. Hall of Famers usually give a team a few more years, but the back end of the contract is usually going to hurt the team.

    When the Griffey contract was signed, it was considered a really good deal contract for the Reds…the injuries raised how much Griffey was being paid.

    As I was writing the trade reviews the age 29-30 point kept coming up. I started pointing it out more and more because players were traded at that point and/or decline started at that point.

  6. Steve Price

    McKeon’s last season as manager was 2000. The Reds scored 825 runs and allowed 765.

    Bob Boone’s first season as manager was 2001. The Reds scored 735 runs and allowed 850.

    the offense flopped…Taubensee/Santiago declined to LaRue; Casey and Reese both severely declined; Todd Walker was less than Barry Larkin (Larkin was hurt so Reese played SS); Young declined some. Mainly it was the catcher’s and infielders that hurt; then Griffey only played 111 games.

    The pitching allowed almost 100 more runs. the starting pitchers all had ERA from 4.48 to 6.92. Scott Sullivan had a 3.31 ERA, the other relievers were no names about 4.00 or higher.

    All those relievers we gave away in the 90’s would have come in handy at this point…

  7. Dan

    How much better would the Reds decade look if they had traded Pokey to Seattle instead of Cameron? (I wonder if that could’ve been done — just straight plug Pokey in instead of Cameron and leave everything else the same?)

    It would’ve been totally selling high on Pokey as it turns out — 1999 was his career year, by FAR — and Cameron is an ageless Gold Glove caliber CF.

  8. Dan

    Also, I’ve looked up the Reds team “defensive efficiency” many times. (That’s the % of batted balls in play that the team turns into outs.)

    The Reds were STELLAR in defensive efficiency in 1999 (best in baseball and it wasn’t even close) at .725 – the one year we had Cameron in CF. (League average seems to be steadily around .690 or so.) This was also the year the Reds surprised baseball and won 96 games, by the way.

    In 2000, before Griffey got hurt, the Reds were #1 in baseball again but not by nearly as much — .704 was the mark.

    In 2001, the number dropped all the way to .686, ranking 22nd in baseball. (And who had the #1 team defensive efficiency in baseball this year? Seattle, by FAR, at .727. 2nd best was .704 – yikes! Note that this is almost identical to how the numbers looked in 1999 for the Reds. Also note that this is the year Seattle won an insane 116 games.)

    Reds have been in the lower half of the defensive efficiency rankings ever since, until this year. We’re currently 7th in baseball at .699 (league average still around .690). We’re just killing ourselves with one of the worst offenses in baseball.

  9. Dan

    Defensive efficiency, by the way, is the stat that Tampa unexpectedly went from worst to first in last year — worst in baseball at .656 (??!!) in 2007 (I think I remember reading that this is the worst mark in 50 years of keeping this stat) to best in baseball at .710 in 2008.

    There’s really something to this number.

    I think there’s an interesting post to be had in here somewhere if anyone feels like crunching the numbers and layering on some insightful and witty analysis, Bill James style… 😉

  10. Dan

    By the way, Steve, kudos on these historical trade retrospectives. I used to glaze over when I saw them b/c they’re long, but there’s some great stuff in here. You’ve done a good job of putting each deal into the context of what was going on with the team at the time.

    Sometime, I’d be interested to see you summarize what you’ve learned from doing these (like the age 30 stuff you refer to here).

    Great stuff.

  11. Steve Price

    I think trading Cameron instead of Pokey was a huge mistake.

    I also think trading for Bichette instead of signing Vaughn was a mistake.

    I think letting that all team of all-star relievers get away was a mistake.

    If they kept Griffey in CF, you’d have Vaughn,Griffey, and Cameron

    instead of Young, Griffey, and Bichette.

  12. GregD

    I wonder what impact the PED era had (or has if you believe it is still ongoing) on the age 30 analytics. You had more players peak or at least continue to play well into their 30’s than prior decades.

  13. GregD

    I agree – I had always wished it was Reese instead. Reese was unexplicably “untouchable” at the time from Bowden’s POV.

  14. Chris Garber

    I think letting that all team of all-star relievers get away was a mistake.

    I disagree with this, for a few reasons:
    1. They kept replacing those relievers, which showed it wasn’t necessary to keep them.
    2. They got good talent in return.
    3. They were, or would’ve been, costly.

    But great stuff, Steve.

  15. Chris Garber

    Also, I played softball for years with the sister of Jake Meyer (the fifth guy in the Griffey trade). We were on the same team when Jake was traded, actually.

    She was the softball 3b I’ve ever seen, male or female. Stood about 50 feet from the plate, no matter who was up.

  16. Steve Price

    Concerning the relievers…

    1) Somebody in that group could have been a starter

    2) Only Sullivan was a quality reliever in 2000; some of those guys were still active; others could have been traded for more help

    3) we received next to nothing for them….we gave away several players worth of talent which could have given us several years worth of value which could have been flipped for more players of value

    The pitching on that 2000 team was just terrible.

  17. Steve Price

    No questions PED kept some people going; another question could be did GMs think about or consider this?

    That group of executives haven’t changed their trading styles much over the years. If they did, does that make them complicit?

  18. Steve Price

    Dan,

    Thanks for the comments…I do realize they trade stories have been long…I could have just made a list, and I’ll probably still do that, but I felt there was much too be learned about how teams are built or fall apart based on the team’s talent evaluations.

    I wanted to tell the story in order to keep the transactions in historical perspective to show that

    1) fundamentals haven’t changed that much

    2) there’s always a way to work the sytem to advantage

    3) talent is still talent…young players improve, past 30 will probably decline, old player skills last, speed and defense fade….but all are important and teams need a mix

  19. Dan

    There’s definitely a lot to be learned from the deals that turned out well and the deals that flopped.

    Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it…

  20. Chris Garber

    Sorry, Steve – I thought your comment about trading relievers was a conclusion you drew from ALL the recaps you’ve done. (i.e., Shaw, Brantley, Franco, Wetteland, etc, etc.)

  21. Red Reposter - 8/12/09

    […] Redleg Nation takes a look back at the events surrounding the Ken Griffey Jr trade back in 2000I had forgotten that they got Dante Bichette that winter as well, so they basically gave up Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, and a few spare parts for a pair of terrific All-Star outfielders. […]

  22. RiverCity Redleg

    I, too, am a big fan of the trade reports. Keep ’em coming, Steve.

  23. pinson343

    These reports are great. I’m a big fan of Junior’s and feel that what he did contribute to the Reds on the field – though not nearly up to expectations – is underrated. If you don’t believe me, check out for example what he did in 2005 (.301/.369./576), arguably his best year for the Reds, after major offseason surgery led to a terrible April. The NL players, coaches, and managers voted him to the Sporting News NL All Star team (first string) that year, even though his season ended with a turned ankle on Labor Day weekend.

    I also feel his supposedly creating a bad chemistry in the clubhouse is bull. The Seattle Mariner blogs are full of stuff about how much Jr. has helped team chemistry there, in particular by getting Ichiro out of his shell. Of course, the fans there would annoint him for sainthood if they could so they’re not too objective.

    But the big point is that there were indicators that, as early as the time of the trade, Jr.’s best days were over. His batting average (and OBP) had fallen.
    More importantly, he had played CF for 11 years on artificial turf. That is brutal, his father needed to leave the Reds because of what playing OF on the hard carpet had done to his knees. This made Jr. an old 29/30, his legs were 35 going on 40.

    Mike Cameron was underrated, it was too bad we let him go.

    I knew that Bichette would suck. He complained loudly BTW when Larkin got the MVP over him in 1995.