Ken Griffey Jr. Negotiations

1 January 2017

The key people involved were Ken Griffey, Jr. , Pat Gillick (the Mariners’ general manager), Jim Bowden (the Reds’ general manager), and Brian Goldberg (Griffey’s agent). First, there were many secrets kept during the entire process. Griffey, for example, never told Seattle upfront what his issues were. Seattle assumed it was money, but, in reality, Griffey wanted to be closer to his home and family. He refused to comment on the luxurious Safeco Field built in Seattle in order to avoid misleading people about his future.

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However, this secrecy backfired as his indifference caused major unrest in Seattle. Also, Griffey’s silence made it harder for the general managers to develop a solid strategy for the trading negotiations. Griffey’s deliberate censorship may have had an impact on his performance, which made him less desirable. Had Griffey been honest about why he wanted to leave Seattle, it may have made him look more appealing. Another mistake was when Seattle announced Griffey would be “going home” before any deal was made. This exacerbated the unrest felt by the fans.

The struggle with the negotiations left many Mariners fans feeling frustrated – some had even posted hate messages on his website. When the time for trade negotiations began, there was a sever lack of communication and coordination between Griffey and Gillick that hampered the entire process. Griffey had provided Gillick with a list of his preferred teams he would consider playing for. This was a mistake – Griffey was extremely shortsighted in what he wanted. If he had kept an open mind, and provided more than a list of four potential teams, it would have left Seattle with more room to develop a solution that pleased everybody involved.

However, Seattle executives privately told Gillick that Griffey changed his mind frequently. Gillick disregarded the list Griffey provided and spent more time talking to teams Griffey was not interested in. This ties in directly to Griffey’s refusal to state why he wanted to leave. Gillick had very limited insight to assist him in his negotiations.

However, Gillick could have taken Griffey’s preferred teams more seriously. Instead of wasting time with the teams Griffey was not interested in, Gillick could have spoken to the four teams on the list first and potentially could have eveloped a suitable deal much faster. The short amount of time available to strike a deal left the Mariners in an unfavorable position. Furthermore, the Mariners’ poor communications with the other teams, as well as Griffey, increased the pressure to make a trade, which eventually led to Griffey turning down an offer since he felt cornered. Seattle made a large mistake when they gave Goldberg permission to contact the Reds when there was a rumor the Reds would be dropping out of the trade negotiations, but the Reds had not made any official statement.

This contact had been illegal, but officials did not deem it severe enough to impede further negotiations. However, the Reds were able to capitalize on this sense of urgency building among the Mariners to sway the offer in their favor – they were able to secure Griffey at a lower price. The Mariners, on the other hand, ended up with four players they did not originally want. This short amount of time had decreased the Marainers’ ability to negotiate with the Reds.

Perhaps if Gillick had spent more time on the four teams Griffey was willing to play for, the Mariners could have taken a much more calculated approach and ended up in a better position to negotiate. Gillick also ignored Bowden’s interests when attempting to make a deal. The strain tipped the balance when Gillick kept insisting on a trade including Pokey Reese, a player Bowden refused to trade. Bowden even called a news conference to announce that the Mariners’ were too insistent on Reese. Again, if Gillick had been more open to listened to what the other team’s concerns, they could have perhaps reached an agreement rather than severing ties.

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