Junior stuck in decision holding pattern
Future Hall of Famer continues to mull option of Atlanta or Seattle
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Earlier this week, the Braves seemingly had legitimate reason to believe Ken Griffey Jr. was going to be with them when they staged their first full-squad workout at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Wednesday morning.
But as time passes and Griffey continues to delay his decision between playing in Atlanta or Seattle, Braves general manager Frank Wren has to prepare himself for the possibility that the 39-year-old outfielder might not be part of his outfield mix.
"We're kind of waiting to see what he decides," Wren said. "Every indication that we have is that he'll come to a decision shortly. When he does, we'll know."
Griffey's negotiations with the Braves were moving at a steady pace until Tuesday afternoon, when the veteran outfielder learned of a report in The Atlanta-Journal Constitution which indicated he'd already decided to play in Atlanta.
Since then, Griffey has had limited contact with the Braves and sources have indicated that this could be further proof that he truly is sensitive about potentially offending Mariners officials and fans in Seattle.
The Mariners continue to monitor the situation, but a club spokesperson said there would be no comment until Griffey is signed by them or the Braves.Club president Chuck Armstrong returned to Seattle as scheduled on Wednesday afternoon, and it's unlikely any announcement would be made by Griffey before he first has talked to the club executive.
Griffey began his storied career in Seattle 20 years ago and his return to the Mariners organization would provide a unique nostalgic opportunity. But before the realization of this extended delay in the decision process, it seemed the geographic advantages provided by the Braves outweighed the nostalgic emotions that would be felt with Griffey's return to Seattle.
Griffey's Orlando-area home is located 20 minutes from where the Braves stage Spring Training and just a one-hour flight from Atlanta. While in Seattle, he's a six-hour flight away from his family.
"He has an emotional tie to Seattle and with the club that he came up with originally," Wren said while alluding to the fact that Griffey spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Mariners. "I'm sure that's a strong deciding factor as well."
Griffey has said that he could make a decision on Wednesday and there's still certainly a chance that he could choose to play in Atlanta. But until he sees the outfielder in his clubhouse, Chipper Jones isn't going to assume anything.
Jones has remained in regular contact with Griffey over the course of this past week and there have certainly been times when he's felt it was only a matter of time before the 13-time All-Star outfielder would officially become his teammate.
Griffey has long talked about his desire to play for Braves manager Bobby Cox, who has lured a number of free agents to Atlanta over the years.
While a four-year, $60-million contract certainly did the trick, Derek Lowe might not have chosen the Braves if not for the fact that he was impressed by the comfort level he gained while meeting with Cox and other Braves officials during a recruiting visit to Atlanta last month.
"People come here to win, but they come here because of Bobby," Jones said. "That man is as beloved throughout the league as any manager you will ever hear about. You won't ever hear anyone say a bad thing about him. He's the drawing card. For so long, back when [Greg] Maddux, [Tom] Glavine and [John] Smoltz were in their heyday, it was real easy to get people to come to our clubhouse. Now it's just Bobby."
If Griffey were to ultimately decide to pass up this opportunity to play for Cox, Wren would likely turn his search for an outfielder toward the trade market or decide to give one of his younger outfielders -- Jordan Schafer, Gregor Blanco or Josh Anderson -- a chance to platoon in left field with Matt Diaz.
There have been some reports that the Braves have interest in Garrett Anderson. But it appears they would be much more interested in filling their outfield void with internal options.
"We've said all along that we'd like to get a bat," Wren said. "We said it might come before Spring Training, it might come during Spring Training or during the season. But we'd also like to see some of our young guys. So we're not married to any one way of putting it together."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.