Saturday, February 12, 2000

Griffey contract stuns baseball

AP Sports Writer

        NEW YORK — Ken Griffey Jr.'s contract was a bigger stunner than the trade itself: Teams and agents couldn't believe the Reds got him so cheaply — at least by baseball's current standards.

        “If the player owns a Rolls-Royce and he chooses to sell it at Volkswagen prices, that's his right,” agent Scott Boras said Friday.

        A day after Griffey's $116.5 million, nine-year contract clinched his trade from Seattle to Cincinnati, the contract was the talk of baseball.

        Because the total includes $57.5 million in deferred money that won't start earning interest until 2009, the Reds estimate its present-day value at between $9.2 million and $9.3 million annually, one agent, speaking on condition he not be identified, said Cincinnati general manager Jim Bowden told him.

        Big money, but not so big in an era when Los Angeles pitcher Kevin Brown averages $15 million and Detroit outfielder Juan Gonzalez is expected to get $17.5 million a year or more in his extension.

        “He has agreed to less than what the market value is, but to me, it is in a unique situation,” Florida general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “A player had a desire to play in one place, had a right to control his destiny and was close to free agency. I don't know if it's any type of trendsetter.”

        In actual money, Griffey will receive $7 million this year and $6 million in each of the following eight seasons. By the time he approaches Hank Aaron's home-run record of 755, he might not be among the top 50 average annual salaries.

        “This wasn't meant to be some trendsetter,” said Griffey's agent, Brian Goldberg, who negotiated the deal. “This was the right situation for Kenny. It's not right for me to speak on behalf of other players and what their priorities are. You want the player to be treated fairly, but by the same token, you want the fans to still be able to come out, because with things getting priced too far out of line, there's no game. So you've got to strike that balance.”

        Cincinnati raised the price of its best tickets from $17 to $21 this year — the increase was announced in November. The New York Mets, who might have paid Griffey $20 million annually, have a top price of $57 this season.

        Griffey's presence should build momentum for the Reds' new ballpark, which they hope will be ready for 2003.

        “I believe this transaction has enhanced the franchise value of the Cincinnati Reds by somewhere between $50 and $100 million dollars immediately, and long term much more than that,” said Tom Reich, who represented former Reds stars Joe Morgan and George Foster.

        “They got a great deal in getting one of the greatest team-sports players of all-time in a community where his impact will be double because it's a hometown reunion.”

        In total dollars, Griffey's deal is baseball's highest, eclipsing Brown's $105 million, seven-year contract. But shortstop Derek Jeter has been negotiating a $118.5 million, seven-year deal with the New York Yankees (an average of $16,928,571), and Gonzalez and Detroit have been talking about an extension said to be worth $140 million.

        But others have taken less than the top of the market. Mark McGwire is getting $9 million this season and recently exercised an $11 million option for 2001 — far less than he could have gotten as a free agent.

        “Every contract signed, everything that gets booked, obviously has an effect on the marketplace — some positive, some negative,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

        Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez, eligible for free agency after the season, is thought to be the first candidate for a baseball contract averaging $20 million. Rodriguez has ruled out negotiating with the Mariners before becoming a free agent.

        “The most shocking thing about this contract to me is a player who wants to win is coming into a market that is financially restricted,” said Boras, Rodriguez's agent.

        “He increases the value of the franchise, but there is no reward for him down the way for what increase in franchise value and revenue he will generate in the future. I understand the issue of what they can afford today, but when the stadium comes in and generates all this interest and revenue, is there anything for the player who is generating the money? I am assuming there's clauses in the contract that account for that.”

        The final terms of the deal have not yet been confirmed by the commissioner's office and the players' association, so details of any clauses are not yet known. But the deal does not appear to contain anything other than the award clauses contained in many contracts.

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