By Kirby Arnold
News that the Mariners have spoken with Ken Griffey Jr.’s agent has fluttered the hearts of M’s fans who would love nothing more than having their favorite player back in Seattle.
According to Griffey’s agent, Junior would like that, too, but most of all he wants to prove there’s life (along with a few dozen homers) left in that sweet swing. If it happens next year with the Mariners, great. If not, he’ll be fine with that, too.
A phone conversation a few minutes ago with Brian Goldberg, Griffey’s agent, made it clearer what Junior is looking for and what he expects of himself next year. Goldberg said he has spoken with nine teams, six from the American League and three from the National League.
Here’s some of what Goldberg said:
“Junior is very realistic. It isn’t something where Junior expects to be some highly paid free agent in the scheme of things. He understands the situation. He gutted it out last year with a partially torn cartilage and meniscus in his (left) knee. He gutted it out instead of having surgery and missing 6-8 weeks.
“It has been four weeks since surgery, he’s 10 or 12 pounds lighter. He knows he’s not going to be the 56 home-run guy he was, but he also should have no problem returning to what he did a few yeras ago. It was ‘07when he had 30 home runs and 93 RBIs.
“You can’t forget history as far as what Junior meant to the franchise, when it happened with the team threatening to possibly move and what he did off the field to try to shore things up. But at the same time, wherever Junior plays next year, whether it’s Seattle or another team, the bottom line is that it has to make sense baseball-wise for that team.
“Junior has never been about needing to grab the highest dollar out there. (Because of deferred salary in his last contract) he probably doesn’t need to be as aggressive compensation-wise as other players in that situation. He can have the luxury of saying, ‘I’ll show for a year that I’ve still got something left.
“If the best situation for him playing-time-wise is a one-year situation, that’s fine. It’s really what other teams dictate. If some team comes to him with some (multi-year) offer that’s hard to turn down, he’d consider it.
“One thing I can say is that Junior is very comfortable with who he was baseball-wise on the field and who he’s not anymore, but who he can still be for a few more years.
“He’s fine with (being a DH). My thinking is that with him getting his knee fixed so early in the offesason and coming in lighter, he would like to play the field and he’s capable of playing right field, left field, some center and some first base. If the best situation for him is a DH situation, he would not turn his back on that. But he feels like he’s still capable of playing in the field.”
Goldberg also made it clear that the any decision by the Mariners on whether or not to sign Griffey rests solely with Zduriencik. That would dispel any notion that front-office executives above the GM, such as CEO Howard Lincoln or president Chuck Armstrong, would exert some heavy influence one way or the other.
“Back when Junior declared free agency, Chuck called just to say, ‘Hi, what are his plans?’ ” Goldberg said. “Then he said, ‘If anything happens with us in the future, it’ll be the GM’s call and nobody over his head willl manadate anything pro or con.”