Tremendous or Tragic? Dealing ‘The Kid’

The date: July 31, 2008. It may have been a small case of the end to justify the means. It was also the first big trade made by Walt Jocketty after being names Reds general manager. This was the day Walt sent Ken Griffey, Jr. to the Chicago White Sox, but let’s quickly backtrack a few years just to see where it all started.

On February 10, 2000, the Reds acquired the “hometown” Junior in a deal from the Seattle Mariners. He played his high school ball at Moeller and was snagged with the first overall selection by the Seattle Mariners in 1987. I imagine some Reds fans became Mariner followers for the sole reason of #24.

In order to get Junior, the Reds sent Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, Jake Meyer and Antonio Perez to the M’s for the services of the future Hall of Famer. While bringing Griffey, Jr. back to Cincinnati was one of many means to boost things such as ticket sales, it just never transpired the way Reds fans had envisioned.

One could hope that having “The Kid” back home would bolster the Reds. Never really happened.

Reds trade Ken Griffey, Jr. (and cash) to the Chicago White Sox for Nick Masset and Danny Richar
It was an era that never quite lived up to the hype…unfortunately. In the 11 seasons in which Griffey was a Mariner, he attained lofty heights. Ten consecutive Gold Gloves and All-Star games (’90-’99), an AL MVP (’97), seven Silver Slugger awards, led the AL four times in home runs (’94, ’97-’99) and MLB in RBI once (’97). During his first 11 years in Seattle, Junior had less than 20 home runs only twice: his rookie season of 1989 (16) and in 1995 (17).

That same magic didn’t travel well to Cincinnati. In the 8+ seasons as a Red, he never really reached that type of statistical dominance. His numbers weren’t bad, mind you: .270/.362/.514 with 210 HR and 602 RBI. It just seemed like The Kid was always nursing something. During his days in Cincy, the most games he played in a season was his first. In 2000, Junior played in 145 games. The next most was his final full season of 2007 where Junior played in 144. In between, he played more 125 games only once (’05-128 games).

So Walt pulled off the deal. The Reds return seemed like little in getting Masset and Richar.

Richar played in 56 games at the big league level back in 2007 (after the Pale Hose dealt their starting second baseman Tadahito Iguchi to Philly), and Richar was originally signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks…as Joandry S. Berroa. His career in the majors never matched his minor league production although you could argue that he was never given ample opportunity considering his minor league success (.286/.333/.423 with 71 HR and 420 RBI in 9 minor league seasons). In November of 2009, Richar was granted free agency only to be signed to a minor league deal with the Marlins.

The “prize” may be Masset. While his start to 2010 and the majority of his 2011 season devastated many a Reds fan, wasn’t quite the same during his first full season in a Reds uniform. In 2009, Masset surprised everyone as he adjusted to the role of setup man after being mostly a starter in the minors. He posted a 5-1 record, 2.37 ERA and 1.026 WHIP. Those type of numbers had already created small murmurs of Masset being the “closer in waiting”.

After all, the would be no chance the Reds would bring back Francisco Cordero after is deal was up. Too much money. I remember before 2010 started hearing those murmurs more and more. I was starting to buy into them. Those murmurs weren’t quite as load entering 2011, but they were still out there.

Then the 2011 season starters and many of us were wondering what had happened to Masset and his control issues…and being hit too much…and just flat out not getting anyone out. His contact rate increased from ’09 to ’11 (72.4%, 73.0%, 76.5%) and we were wondering if the rest of the National League had figured out how to hit him.

That could be the biggest question entering 2012: Can Masset re-establish himself? Period.

You could say this trade was a little tragic and a little tremendous. The tragedy was dealing away a hometown kid who had cracked career homer #600 while donning a Reds uniform. A further tragedy was the surroundings which may have led to Junior’s retirement from the game.

The tremendous was Masset’s 2009.

Trade off?

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