Published July 31, 2008
CINCINNATI – Ken Griffey Jr. is back in a pennant race.
The Chicago White Sox acquired Griffey from his hometown Cincinnati Reds Thursday, hoping the 38-year-old outfielder can help them hold their slim lead in the AL Central.
The Reds sent Griffey and cash to Chicago for reliever Nick Masset and Triple-A second baseman Danny Richar.
The deal was announced a half-hour before the Thursday afternoon deadline to make trades without waivers.
Griffey became the sixth player to reach 600 career homers this season, but has struggled at the plate. He's batting .245 with 15 homers and 53 RBIs despite playing in one of the most homer-friendly ballparks in Cincinnati.
Once one of baseball's premier players, Griffey has never reached the World Series and has not even been in the playoffs since 1997 with Seattle.
The Reds were interested in dealing Griffey because of the size of his contract and their plummet after the All-Star break, which dropped them back to near the bottom of the NL Central, 13 1/2 games out of first place. The Reds haven't had a winning season since 2000.
The White Sox lead the AL Central by 1 1/2 games over Minnesota, giving Griffey a rare chance to play in a pennant race. He could play center field for Chicago, with Nick Swisher to first base in place of slumping Paul Konerko. After Chicago lost to Minnesota 6-5 on Tuesday night, manager Ozzie Guillen indicated he was considering moving Swisher to first base, but he wasn't confident anyone could take his place in center.
Swisher and Konerko could split the job at first, or Konerko and Jim Thome could platoon as the designated hitter. The White Sox are set in left and right field with Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye.
Griffey was an All-Century center fielder with Seattle, but his speed has diminished in the last few years because of age and injury. The Reds moved him to right field before the 2007 season, a switch that the outfielder initially disliked. Rookie Jay Bruce currently plays center for Cincinnati.
The trade that united Griffey with his hometown team in 2000 was hailed as a major breakthrough for the franchise, but turned out to be far less than expected. After the 2002 season, former general manager Jim Bowden tried to trade Griffey to San Diego for Phil Nevin, who used his no-trade clause to block the deal.
Bowden was trying to work out a deal with the Yankees in 2003 before Griffey got hurt. The White Sox also have shown an interest in Griffey, but Reds ownership was reluctant to trade its most prominent player as he closed in on 600 homers.