Why the Rumored Nevin for Griffey Deal Made No Sense

Okay, with luck this is the last I’ll say on the topic, but it occurs to me that although I’ve written a great deal about The Rumor in various other forums, I may not have made my point clearly enough here. So I’ll try to summarize what I’ve written elsewhere and that, as they say, will be that.

The problem I have with the rumored Phil Nevin for Ken Griffey Jr. deal is this:

If the Padres take on Griffey’s salary in its entirety, they’re pretty much committed to getting rid of Trevor Hoffman (itself a very tricky proposition, for reasons explained elsewhere), Ryan Klesko, and possibly Mark Kotsay. Mabye that makes sense if they’re close to contending. But right now the Padres are still in the building phase and aren’t in a position to take on salary for a potential short-term gain.

The only way the Pads make this kind of trade is if the Reds give them enough money that they end up paying Junior only a little more than what Nevin currently makes (and that won’t happen because the point of this trade from the Reds’ standpoint presumably is to rid themselves of a huge contract). Otherwise this is a disastrous trade for the Padres. Unless John Moores suddenly comes up with a bunch of money and decides he can increase payroll by a lot. And we know that’s not going to happen.

Is Griffey a better player than Nevin? If healthy, the answer is yes. It’s not as resounding as it was a few years ago, but a healthy Griffey is better than a heathy Nevin. Few people will argue that point. But this isn’t about production, it’s about money. Asking the Padres to spend an additional $49 million on payroll for a player not named Vlad or Alex over the next four years is just insane. Aside from the Expos, there aren’t many clubs less likely than the Padres to fork over that kind of cash to a single player.

Let’s distill all this talk to its most basic elements. Here is what we know about each of the parties involved:

The Reds

  • are looking to trim payroll
  • have a 30-year-old third baseman who made $2.1 million in 2002 and who is eligible for arbitration; for his career he is a .271/.333/.446 hitter and generally is regarded as an above-average defender

The Padres

  • are not looking to add payroll
  • have a 22-year-old third baseman who is as cheap as they come (right now); in his first big-league season he hit .271/.317/.323 and showed the ability to be an above-average defender

Phil Nevin

  • is scheduled to make $30 million over the next 4 years
  • has a no-trade clause in his contract; he and his family make their home in Poway, and he has stated that the only teams he would consider waiving his no-trade clause for are those that play and train on the west coast: the Angels, the Mariners, the Giants, and the A’s
  • wants to play third base if he changes teams; that eliminates the Angels and the A’s
  • is 32 years old, has hit .275/.348/.485 for his career, and generally is regarded as a below-average defender

Ken Griffey Jr.

  • is scheduled to make $79 million over the next 6 years
  • prior to the 2000 season demanded and received a trade from a west coast club to his hometown team, the Reds
  • is under contractual obligation for the next 3-4 years to promote businesses owned by Reds owner Carl Lindner
  • is 33 years old and has hit .295/.379/.562 for his career
  • has missed an average of 53 games per year in his three NL seasons

Taking the above facts into consideration, here are several things that killed this deal before it ever got of the ground:

  • The Reds don’t need a third baseman.
  • Even if they did, Nevin can’t really play third base, so this trade doesn’t address that need.
  • The Padres can’t afford to take on the additional salary that Griffey would represent without substantial (at least $30 million) compensation to the Padres.
  • Cincinnati isn’t in California.
  • The Padres are not a business owned by Carl Lindner.

The only way I see something getting done is if the Padres send Nevin to the Giants, who send Russ Ortiz ($2.9 million in 2002) or Jason Schmidt ($4.9 million in 2002) and maybe a second-tier prospect to the Reds, who send Griffey and a few boatloads of cash to the Pads. Still seems far-fetched to me, but stranger things have happened (see, e.g., Carrot Top’s career).

Heck, if the Padres are going to go that route, I’d rather see them pursue Brian Giles, who is younger, cheaper, healthier, and more productive at this point in their respective careers than is Junior. Plus he’s from San Diego. What could be better?

Here are some other takes on the rumor:

Finally, here is what some fans in Cincy have to say: As usual, Junior is the hot topic (Cincinnati Enquirer). What’s fascinating to me is how much Reds fans seem to love Griffey despite the fact that (a) he’s missed about one-third of his team’s games since he’s joined them, (b) he hasn’t helped the Reds in the standings (in the three years preceding his arrival the Reds averaged 83 wins; in the three years since they’ve averaged 76 wins), and (c) he’s costing the club a lot of money and potentially keeping them from making other moves to improve their chances of winning. Why is his presence so important to the team? Seriously.

At any rate, even if their fans and media types don’t get it, the Reds must realize that the Padres can’t afford Griffey. And I sure as heck hope the Padres know this. If not, I guess we can all be thankful that Nevin invoked his no-trade clause and saved us from ourselves.

That’s enough for one day. I’ll talk about Brady Anderson tomorrow…

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