Is Griffey truly the best fit?
Many of the Braves have publicly endorsed the idea of signing Ken Griffey, Jr. to serve in a left field platoon with Matt Diaz. But others have privately wondered whether “The Kid” would truly be their best fit.
Because of his respect for Bobby Cox, Griffey likely won’t have any problem with temporarily ending those days of turning his hat around and wearing earrings while on the field.
But these are just a couple of the Griffey-related minor issues that the Braves have to worry about while wondering whether signing the outfielder would create a negative clubhouse distraction.
As one of six Major Leaguers to reach the 600-homer plateau, Griffey is indeed one of the true legends of the game. In fact the belief that he’s never used any illegal performance-enhancing substances lead me to consider him to be the greatest player of this generation.
This obviously leads me to wonder if he truly could remain happy while serving in a platoon role over the course of an entire season. But at 39 years-old, it might be time for him to realize his statistics prove that it’s time to make this concession.
Over the course of the past three seasons, Griffey has hit .284 with 53 homers and an .886 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) against right-handed pitchers. In 444 fewer at-bats against left-handers during this span, he’s hit .216 with 22 homers and a .689 OPS.
While Griffey undoubtedly seems to be the best left-handed option in a left field platoon, his presence would certainly complicate matters for the other younger left-handed-hitting outfielders — – Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Jordan Schafer, Brandon Jones – who could also fill that role.
Anderson is out of options and because of this he’ll be given every opportunity to win the starting job in center. If he does win this job, Griffey would likely occasionally spell him in center. The way the roster currently stands, this would also likely mean that Jones, Blanco and Schafer would all begin this season in the Minors.
There’s no doubt that Jones, Blanco and Schafer could benefit from additional seasoning at the Minor League level. But Schafer certainly has the potential to be Major League-ready early in the season and it would be a shame if Griffey’s presence blocks his path.
But with this being said, when this time comes, the Braves will have options.
They could either attempt to pass Anderson through waivers. Or if the decision to promote Schafer has something to do with Griffey’s performance, they could always decide to part ways with the legendary outfielder, who likely won’t come at a cost of more than $1.5 million.
Given the already-youthful makeup of their roster, I understand why some in the Braves clubhouse are wondering whether it would be best to give some of the young outfielders a chance to prove what they can do at the Major League level.
But I’m of the mindset that when you have a chance to win now, you do what’s best for the immediate future. Because of that, Griffey seems to be a bargain gamble that the Braves should make.
- Mark Bowman