Friday, July 21, 2000

Griffey offers to pitch in to keep Larkin

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HOUSTON — Mixed signals were issued Thursday in the Barry Larkin saga, as events unfolded that could keep the 14-year veteran shortstop with the Reds or send him packing:

        • Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr.'s agent, Brian Goldberg, said his client is willing to defer part of his salary to help seal a Larkin deal, if Larkin and club management suddenly decide to compromise in contract talks.

        • Reds general manager Jim Bowden gave Larkin's agent, Eric Goldschmidt, a list of the teams that have expressed interest in acquiring his client. That list included the New York Mets, considered the leading suitor among the handful of teams said to be seeking Larkin's services. The Journal News of Westchester, N.Y., reported Thursday that the Mets had contacted the Reds about Larkin but hadn't been given permission to talk to him.

        • Bowden, who had not accompanied the Reds on any portion of their three-city, eight-game trip, felt enough urgency to show up Thursday at Enron Field to speak face-to-face with Larkin, even though the team will return to Cinergy Field today to play the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bowden and Larkin met privately for eight minutes and refused to comment after emerging separately.

        Both men seemed oddly upbeat, indicating they didn't discuss any grave matters.

        “If I was packing, I'd have a comment,” Larkin said as he ran to join his teammates for

        batting practice. Then came Bowden, who joked about riding the locomotive that runs across the top of Enron's left-field wall.

        Bowden's sudden appearance and Larkin's reference to departing indicated that the GM presented the 11-time All-Star with a trade proposal — which was rejected. Larkin's tenure gives him veto power over any deal.

        Goldschmidt wouldn't say which teams had asked about Larkin. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays and perhaps the Anaheim Angels are among the teams that could use a premier shortstop the most. The July 31 non-waiver trading deadline has made time a factor.

        Mets general manager Steve Phillips told reporters in Montreal that though no deal involving Larkin or any other player appeared imminent: “We're in the process of name exchanges with multiple teams.”

        The Mets must settle some weighty issues before being able to propose a trade for Larkin, including the $16 million they owe injured Gold Glove-winning shortstop Rey Ordonez from 2001-03 and their desire to sign Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who's eligible to become a free agent after this season.

        If Griffey has his way, there won't be a trade. But first, Larkin and the Reds must display an inclination to find some middle ground. To this point, neither side has budged from its position.

        Larkin wants a three-year, $27.9 million deal. The Reds have offered around $6 million a year, leaving the sides more than $3 million apart annually.

        Griffey already has agreed to defer $57.5 million of his nine-year, $116.5 million contract, to be paid after March 2009.

        Asked how much more money Griffey would be willing to defer, Goldberg said, “I'm not going to get into the numbers.”

        Goldberg responded affirmatively when asked if he had discussed Griffey's added deferment with members of the Reds' hierarchy. Griffey himself refused to comment.

        Bowden had no comment other than to say, “If that's true, that's another class act by Ken Griffey Jr.”

        Griffey proposed similar help twice during his career with the Seattle Mariners to help that team retain slugging outfielder Jay Buhner.


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