Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Sullivan: OF-P solution: Trade Griffey

        Assume for the moment the Reds are for real. Look upon Austin Kearns not as a temporary fix, but as a permanent fixture.

        Count Juan Encarnacion as someone who can be counted on.

        Adam Dunn? Duh.

        Consider the Reds' impressive young outfield, the home team's surprising start and the still-precarious state of its starting pitching. Then consider the question of where Ken Griffey Jr. best fits:

        A) Batting third, playing center field.

        B) Atlanta.

        C) New York.

        D) Seattle.

        After years of stockpiling ordinary outfielders, Reds general manager Jim Bowden has finally accumulated enough quality to own a substantial surplus. Rather than crippling the ballclub, Griffey's injuries have provided a platform for younger players to seize the spotlight. So far, the young outfielders all look like stars.

Junior looks expendable

        Consequently, Junior is starting to look like an expensive, expendable extravagance. It says here that it's still too soon to give up on Griffey; that Junior can't be judged fairly unless and until he is healthy enough to take his hacks on a daily basis. Though his recent medical history is harrowing, it does not seem to indicate any chronic condition.

        With a once-in-a-generation talent, it's usually wise to wait before rendering an irreversible decision.

        Yet with adequate alternatives already in place, there is enough doubt about Griffey's long-term outlook that the Reds ought to be willing to at least talk trade. Lagging attendance, payroll inflexibility and a starting rotation with no obvious ace should lead Bowden to explore ways of converting his outfield abundance into a quality arm.

        The Yankees have enough starters for a six-man rotation, but their biggest outfield offense to date has been Ruben Rivera's theft of Derek Jeter's glove.

        The Braves have blue-ribbon pitching and a Blue Cross outfield. Rumors of Griffey's return to Seattle are just rumors, but the Mariners remain a logical place for him to land if a deal should ever go down.

        That said, Griffey need not be the one to go. For the right pitcher, one of the Reds young outfielders might be made available — maybe not Adam Dunn, but anyone else. If Sean Casey could fetch a legitimate stopper, Dunn might be easily recast as a first baseman.

        Still, for reasons of age, cost, risk and return, speculation is sure to center on Junior.

        If you're a regular listener to talk radio, which is to say you either need to get out more or are Griffey's agent, Brian Goldberg, you have to know it already has.

        “There never has been any (internal) talk of us making any deal (involving Griffey),” said Brad Kullman, the Reds' assistant general manager/baseball administration. “I guarantee you that didn't come out of this organization with any credibility.

        “Nothing has changed from our standpoint from the day we made the trade other than the physical ailments (Griffey's) had to deal with. We still expect to have him as a centerpiece as we move into the new stadium.”

        What the Reds expect is one thing. What they'd be willing to do is another. Those teams in need of an outfielder know where to call.

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