|The Reds found a taker for 38-year-old right fielder Ken Griffey, trading him to the White Sox for righthanded reliever Nick Masset and Triple-A second baseman Danny Richar.|
|The Big Leaguers|
|Griffey hit his 600th home run on June 9 but it’s been an otherwise lackluster season for the 20-year veteran. He batted .245/.355/.432 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs for the Reds, and that slugging percentage, if it holds, would establish a new full-season (read: injury-free) low for the all-time great. (Technically, he slugged .420 as a 19-year-old rookie in 1989, but that shouldn’t count.) Griffey’s power isn’t the only thing that’s diminished with time. Limited to right field now, where he has below-average range, Griffey hasn’t played center field since 2006, yet that’s where he may fit best in the White Sox’ plans. It’s been a slow fade for the Hall-of-Fame bound slugger, but he still owns career averages of .288/.373/.549 with 608 home runs, 1,754 RBIs and 2,646 hits in 9,185 at-bats. The Reds reportedly will pay the remainder of Griffey’s $12.5 million salary (about $4 million—that’s all that’s left of his nine-year, $116.5 million deal) this season, after which the White Sox can buy him out for another $4 million.
Masset, 26, has gone 1-0, 4.63 in 32 games for the White Sox (one start), posting 32 strikeouts, 21 walks and four home runs in 44 2/3 innings. Though he has good raw stuff—a fastball that runs into the mid-90s and a hard curveball as a strikeout pitch—he lacks the command to succeed as a starter. Masset has gone more to his slider/cutter versus righthanded batters this season, and he’ll mix in an occasional changeup. A 2000 draft-and-follow (eighth round) from St. Petersburg JC, Masset has posted a 5.63 ERA in 93 big league innings, logging 57 strikeouts and 49 walks. He was a throw-in in the December 2006 Brandon McCarthy-for-John Danks trade.
Signed by the Diamondbacks out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, Richar joined the White Sox in Arizona’s June 2007 trade for Aaron Cunningham. He’s been a steady, if unspectacular, performer, batting .262/.321/.427 with nine home runs in 248 at-bats for Charlotte this season, and .289/.348/.475 in 648 at-bats at the Triple-A level. The 25-year-old, lefthanded-hitting Richar rates as average to slightly below, for a middle infielder, across the board. He’s an average hitter, with average power, average speed, defensive acumen and arm strength.
|Griffey, while clearly in decline (and still quite pricey), has performed better than White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko (.214/.312/.349) has this season. Ideally, Chicago could make a one-for-one playing time swap, subbing Griffey for Konerko at first base. But that seems unlikely. Griffey has played just two games at the position in his career. And with DH occupied by 37-year-old Jim Thome (who has played just four games at first in the past three seasons), that avenue would seem to be cut off, as well.
Of course, the White Sox are set on the outfield corners, with Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin, meaning Griffey could see most of his time in center field, with Nick Swisher switching to first base. In other words, Griffey’s bat comes at a significant cost to Chicago’s team defense.
The Reds can plug Masset into their bullpen this year, and Richar, who played shortstop early in his career, could make it as a lefty-hitting utility man—especially if he can learn to handle third base and the outfield. The real benefit for Cincinnati, though, is that they won’t have to pay Griffey’s buyout or risk doing the arbitration dance with the veteran this offseason.