07/31/08 8:50 PM EST
White Sox get Griffey from Reds
Move to South Side official after nine years in Cincinnati
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
The aggressive general manager looked at improving the starting rotation and the bullpen. But the starters available didn't exactly thrill Williams compared to what he already had in place, and the price of return for a quality reliever simply was too steep.
So, Williams looked into fortifying an already power-packed White Sox lineup.
"We believe we're definitely going to have to hit more in the second half than we hit in the first half," said Williams, speaking from the visitors' dugout prior to Thursday's series finale at the Metrodome.
Williams ultimately left a number of interesting scenarios back in negotiations, with the White Sox not able to come to agreement on more than just one deal. It was a deal packing quite a wallop.
After telling the Chicago media as recently as Saturday night in Detroit that there appeared to be no deals in the offing for his team prior to today's deadline, Williams surprised the Major League Baseball world and even a few of his players by acquiring outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds. Right-handed reliever Nick Masset and Minor League second baseman Danny Richar were moved to Cincinnati in exchange for the Hall of Fame-bound slugger.
Griffey, who turns 39 in November, had ultimate veto power over the trade as a 20-year-veteran, of which nine were played consecutively in Cincinnati. But Griffey gave the go-ahead to the deal following Thursday conversations with Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, with one primary concern being Griffey's return to center field from an absence since 2006.
"When I talked to Junior he said, he was very honest and that's what we want from our players. He said, 'I've got to tell you, I don't know that you're going to see the guy from Seattle,'" said Williams, who added how the trade basically started to take shape on Wednesday. "I said, 'We're not looking for that guy from Seattle. What we're looking for is for you to use your instincts.'
"Center field is actually the easiest of the outfield positions to play from a health perspective. I know that doesn't sound right because you've got to go a lot of left and right, but trust me, it's a little easier to play center field.
"[Instinctively], we feel he's going to give us at least what we were getting out there," Williams added. "Remember, we didn't have the prototypical guy out there in the first place. Swish did a heck of a job, and he'll continue to get some time out there. But he isn't the most prototypical guy that you can put out there, and you don't have to be if you have good baseball instincts."
Guillen joked that Griffey sounded "sleepy" when they spoke early, but added how he also seemed excited to be coming to a first-place team with a solid chance at postseason advancement. Guillen readily admitted that Griffey was brought to Chicago to play every day, but aside from that particular assessment, nothing was guaranteed for even a star of Griffey's magnitude.
"I'm going to put the best guys I think we have to give us a better chance to win the game," Guillen said. "We brought Junior to play, but if Junior don't play the way we think he should be playing, then we're going to have guys here to replace. We are here to win, and we will see how it works."
Playing under the final year of a nine-year, $116.5 million deal, the White Sox will pay Griffey the pro-rated minimum for the rest of his 2008 salary and then split his $4 million buyout for 2009 with the Reds. Griffey also has a $16.5 million club option for next season, which the Reds said they did not plan to exercise.
"I'll deal with that at the end of the season," said Williams with a smile of Griffey's option. "We're just trying to win the 2008 championship, but it's in the back of our minds."
The left-handed slugger stands as one of six men in baseball history to surpass 600 home runs. Two more home runs will move Griffey to 610 for his career and push him into fifth place past Sammy Sosa, a little extra guilty pleasure for White Sox fans, who might get to watch this accomplishment happen at home.
Through 102 games this season, Griffey is batting .245 with 15 home runs, 53 RBIs and a .355 on-base percentage. He still has plenty of ability left in the tank, but monitoring Griffey to make sure he's rested and healthy will be an important task for Guillen and his staff.
Having Griffey, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye all in this same mix, though, gives the White Sox the luxury of sitting a power hitter here and that but still fielding a formidable lineup.
That depth should make the White Sox stronger as a unit, as they fight for their second World Series title in four years. That fight for a World Series title should give an accomplished veteran such as Griffey a feeling of rejuvenation.
"One of the things that factored into this is he's a guy who's had a great career but has not won a championship," Williams said. "How motivated he's going to be to get one, that is a factor and will always be a factor to me.
"It's never a bad thing to be in a pennant and have help walk through the door. I don't get caught up in the names. I get caught up more in fits and need."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.