Ken Griffey Jr. heads to the Windy City: The Kid looks for his first ring with the White Sox

Can the Kid recapture his mojo in the AL?

Can the Kid recapture his mojo in the AL?

In what eventually proved to be the penultimate trade of the day (see Ramirez, Manny) future first ballot hall of famer Ken Griffey Jr. was shipped from his hometown Cincinnati Reds to Chicago’s other team, the oft forgotten White Sox.

Griffey Jr. was traded for minor league infielder Danny Richar and reliever Nick Masset. As a condition of the trade the Reds and White Sox will agree to split the remaining portion of Griffey’s salary as well as the $4 million cost of his buyout at the end of the season.

The Sox hope that the addition of Griffey will add left-handed pop and veteran leadership to a team that enters today a half game ahead of the hard charging Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Junior is expected to suit up tonight as Chicago travels to Kansas City to meet the Royals in the first of a three game series.

Although currently sitting at a line of only .245-15-53, Griffey is riding a 12-game hitting streak and Chicago GM Kenny Williams believes that the pennant chase may inspire a second half resurgence from Junior. Griffey hasn’t been to the postseason since 1997 with the Mariners, but in his three postseason series he is a .305 hitter, including tying a then postseason record of five homeruns in a series against the Yankees in 1995.

Cincinnati gains little from this deal, really only dumping some salary in a season that was lost long ago. Richar is a fringe major league second baseman, but the Reds signed Brandon Phillips to a four year deal in February and are set at that position through 2011, so the best case scenario is that he becomes a utility infielder. Masset was mediocre out of the White Sox bullpen with a 4.63 ERA but sported an atrocious 1.70 WHIP thanks in large part to allowing 55 hits in only 44 2/3 innings pitched. He may be able to contribute out of the pen as an average middle reliever, but neither of these players seem to factor in the long term plans of the Red’s organization.

Junior in pinstripes? It's worth a shot.

Junior in pinstripes? It's worth a shot.

While Chicago didn’t have to give up much to acquire Griffey, the real question becomes where does he fit into the lineup and defense? Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin are set at the corner outfield positions, leaving centerfielder Nick Swisher the odd man out. It’s expected that Swisher will move to first base to take the place of the dyingslumping Paul Konerko. If this all shakes out as planned Griffey will return to the position where he won 10 straight gold gloves, albeit the last one coming during the Clinton administration (1999).

I expect Junior to produce well at the plate as Cingular Field plays similarly to the Great American Ballpark in terms of homeruns and runs scored. While his power and average are both down, Griffey has shown patience at the plate and the ability to work a count, as he currently has the third-best BB/K ratio of his career. However, while the addition of him will marginally improve their offense, the White Sox outfield defense will suffer as Griffey has not played full time in center since 2006 and has been below average in right field this season. Overall, this looks like a decent deal for Chicago, who hope that Junior can capture the spirit of ’97 as they push forward towards the AL Central crown.


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