Griffey opts for Seattle over Atlanta
Braves likely to look internally to help add power to outfield
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ken Griffey Jr. campaigned for the opportunity to stay close to home and then ultimately decided to return to his original Major League home.
Thoughts of Griffey joining the Braves ended Wednesday night, when the veteran outfielder chose to return to Seattle and the Mariners fans who have adored him since those days when he truly was "The Kid."
"I think we knew acquiring him was a bit of a long shot, even though he was indicating that he wanted to come here to play," Braves general manager Frank Wren said.
Last week, when it seemed that he'd definitely sign with the Mariners, Griffey called Chipper Jones to talk about his interest in playing for the Braves. Griffey increased his campaign efforts by making sure Wren knew that he wanted to talk to him.
When told of Griffey's decision on Wednesday night, Jones was somewhat upset about the fact he felt he'd wasted his time while providing information that he felt Griffey was seeking in an attempt to land in Atlanta.
"It's just another person who shunned us," said Jones, while eluding to the fact that the Braves also felt they were close to completing deals to acquire Rafael Furcal and Jake Peavy this offseason.
The "shunning" provided by Griffey might have a more detrimental effect if you're of the belief that he could have been the power source the Braves were looking to add to their outfield mix. Atlanta's outfielders combined for a Major League-low 27 homers last year, and the club hasn't found the addition that it's been seeking throughout the offseason.
But because he's 39 years old and coming off offseason right knee surgery, some members of the Braves wondered if Griffey would have been able to supply the power that they're seeking. The veteran hit .272 with 14 homers and a .472 slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers last year, and .202 with four homers and a .350 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers.
While the fact that Atlanta was planning to utilize Griffey in a left-field platoon might have played to his strengths, some Braves wondered whether the veteran outfielder would be given the chance to produce clutch hits in the late innings, when opposing teams likely would have chosen to oppose him with left-handed relievers.
Griffey seemingly had a positive meeting with Wren and Braves manager Bobby Cox at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Monday. At various times since then, there was reason to believe Griffey was going to end up in Atlanta.
But just when it appeared he might be nearing an agreement on Tuesday afternoon, Griffey and his agent, Brian Goldberg, ended regular dialogue with Wren.
"I think we all thought we had a chance to get him," Wren said. "But he never indicated that he had made a decision."
Sources have indicated that Griffey's tide turned shortly after he became upset with the fact that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was reporting that he'd already decided to play for the Braves.
But Wren said the fact that the silence came after this report was published was purely coincidental. Griffey's decision was based on the lifetime opportunities that Seattle will provide him.
There has been some indication that the Mariners ultimately lured him to Seattle with the offer of a lifetime personal services contract. In other words, he'll have the opportunity to remain on the Mariners' payroll in the same manner that Hank Aaron has remained on the Braves' payroll throughout his post-retirement days.
Before the Mariners began enhancing their offer, it seemed the geographic advantages provided by Atlanta might outweigh the nostalgic benefits of returning to Seattle, where Griffey began his Major League career 20 years ago and spent the first 11 seasons of his storied career.
Griffey's Orlando, Fla.,-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.
With Griffey's decision to sign with the Mariners, Wren seems intent to give one of his younger outfielders -- Brandon Jones, Jordan Schafer, Gregor Blanco or Josh Anderson -- a chance to platoon in left field with Diaz.
Among these young outfielders, Schafer and Jones undoubtedly possess the most power potential.
Because Schafer missed 50 games while serving a suspension last year, the Braves might be hesitant to start him in the Majors. That being said, the 22-year-old slugger has been one of the most impressive players during the early days of camp.
"Jordan Schafer is on a mission," Jones said. "He's the most focused guy in camp and he's certainly capable of doing things."
Wren will also continue to look for options on the trade market. There doesn't appear to be much interest in Garret Anderson or any of the other available outfielders on the free-agent market.
"We're happy to give the kids a chance," Wren said. "[Griffey] was just an option that we explored after he reached out and showed interest in us."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.