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Monday, December 13
Updated: December 14, 5:35 PM ET
Griffey rejects four-player deal

Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In a stunning near-miss, the New York Mets had a trade in place for Ken Griffey Jr. on Monday night, only to have the Seattle star reject it.

Ken Griffey Jr.

"I think we were close to an understanding," Mariners general manager Pat Gillick said.

On a day that saw what baseball called its first four-team trade since 1985 and free agent Greg Vaughn sign with Tampa Bay, the Mets and Mariners nearly pulled off one of the biggest deals ever.

"I don't feel like we were wasting time," Mets GM Steve Phillips said. "I think it was a worthy effort to pursue, and an exciting one to pursue."

Neither Phillips nor Gillick identified the players the Mets agreed to send Seattle. ESPN's Peter Gammons, however, reports the sides had agreed on left-handed reliever Dennis Cook, outfielder Roger Cedeno and young pitcher Octavio Dotel.

Phillips and Gillick said the teams will keep talking.

"At this point, I don't think he wants to go to the Mets," Gillick said. "You're always hopeful something will change."

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong called Griffey's agent Monday, saying a deal was in place and asking if the 10-time All-Star would waive his right to block it.

But agent Brian Goldberg said no deal, Gillick said.

Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden broke off talks with the Mariners on Saturday, saying Seattle would not back off its insistence that second baseman Pokey Reese be included in any deal.

Griffey grew up in Cincinnati and had wanted to play there.

After the Reds backed out, Goldberg said: "I don't know why Seattle is wasting its time talking to a bunch of teams. If he can't go to Cincinnati, then he's going back to Seattle for the final year of his contract."

Griffey can reject any deal as a 10-and-5 player -- 10 years in the majors and the last five with the same team. This offseason, he asked the Mariners to trade him to a club closer to his home in Orlando, Fla.

"I think the Mets have a good ballclub and a good situation," Gillick said. "I think it's a nice place to play. You're always hopeful people want to play in a winning situation."

A member of baseball's All-Century team, the 30-year-old Griffey has 398 career home runs and is given a chance at breaking Hank Aaron's record of 755. Griffey is still eligible for free agency after the 2000 season.

There were plenty of deals Monday at the winter meetings, however.

In a major power shift, Vaughn and Vinny Castilla landed in Tampa Bay, leaving the Devil Rays ready to trot out a modern-day Murderers' Row.

Castilla was part of a rare four-team trade that also involved Jeff Cirillo and Rolando Arrojo, while Vaughn signed a $34 million, four-year contract.

World Series star Chad Curtis was traded from the New York Yankees to Texas, and former October hero Chad Ogea also wound up with Tampa Bay. A few other deals, one with Brant Brown, spiced up the busiest day of the meetings.

Boston did not make a deal, but made news: Tom Gordon, the AL's top closer in 1998, is expected to miss the entire 2000 season after undergoing elbow surgery.

The last-place Devil Rays made the biggest noise. Next-to-last in the AL with 145 home runs this season, the middle of their lineup now features Vaughn, Castilla, Jose Canseco and Fred McGriff.

The quartet combined for 144 homers and 409 RBI this year.

"We're heading toward being an American League club," Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar joked.

Vaughn, who had 45 home runs and 118 RBI for Cincinnati, was eager to play at Tropicana Field.

"They say it's a great hitter's park," said Vaughn, 34. "I think we have a real good shot at doing some things."

While a lot of rumors floated, Tampa Bay, Colorado, Milwaukee and Oakland turned nearly a month of talking into a nine-player swap.

"There almost was another team involved, if I could have gotten another type of player," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said.

When it was sorted out, here's where everyone was headed:

  • Third baseman Cirillo (.326, 15 HRs, 88 RBI), pitchers Arrojo (7-12, 5.18 ERA) and Scott Karl (11-11, 4.78) and infielder Aaron Ledesma (.265, 0, 30) to Colorado.

  • Third baseman Castilla (.275, 33, 102) to Tampa Bay.

  • Pitchers Jamey Wright (4-3, 4.87) and Jimmy Haynes (7-12, 6.34) and catcher Henry Blanco (.232, 6, 28) to Milwaukee.

  • Pitcher Justin Miller (1-2, 4.14 in Class A) to Oakland.

    Colorado has added 15 players through trades or free agency since the end of the World Series. The Rockies, realizing their biggest need, have concentrated on pitching.

    The Devil Rays later took Ogea in the major-league draft of players left off 40-man roster. The pitcher was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA for Cleveland in the 1997 World Series, but has never been able to duplicate that success.

    Curtis, who hit two home runs in Game 3 of the World Series and caught the final ball in Game 4 to complete a sweep, was traded by the New York Yankees to Texas for two minor-league pitchers.

    "You don't look at one great moment. You look at what he's done over the years," Rangers general manager Doug Melvin said. "He's a gritty type of player, a versatile outfielder."

    The Yankees were the only team that did not attend the five-day session that ends Tuesday. New York GM Brian Cashman, working by phone from Yankee Stadium, got pitchers Sam Marsonek and Brandon Knight.

    There was a chance, too, the Yankees would trade pitcher Hideki Irabu, possibly to Cincinnati.

    "We've got a lot of action on Hideki because clubs recognize he's a third or fourth starter for most clubs with a very good pricetag. He's a fifth starter for us only because of our depth," Cashman said.

    In other deals, Pittsburgh traded Brown to Florida for Bruce Aven in an exchange of outfielders, and San Francisco sent reliever Jerry Spradlin to Kansas City. Brown, best known for dropping a costly fly ball for the Cubs in late 1998, was traded last Dec. 14 from Chicago to the Pirates.

    Pittsburgh sent reliever Brad Clontz to Arizona, and Florida got outfielder Abraham Nunez from the Diamondbacks to complete the July 9 trade for Matt Mantei.

    Also, the Philadelphia Phillies gave GM Ed Wade a two-year contract extension.

    Among other rumors: Houston sending outfielder Carl Everett to Boston, and the New York Mets pursuing outfielders B.J. Surhoff of Baltimore and Jim Edmonds of Anaheim.

    Baseball said Monday's big deal marked the first four-way trade since Jim Sundberg and Danny Darwin moved when Kansas City, Texas, Milwaukee and Mets swapped on Jan. 18, 1985.

    In this deal, Montreal and San Diego also took part in the negotiations at some point.

    Castilla, 32, has been one of baseball's most consistent home run hitters in the last five years, averaging 38 a season. Now, he'll have to show he can hit for power away from Coors Field.

    And Arrojo, 31, will have to prove he can pitch in that park -- he was 7-12 with a 5.18 ERA in 24 starts in his second major-league season for the Devil Rays.

    Cirillo, 30, and Karl moved from Milwaukee to Colorado while Ledesma was acquired from Tampa Bay.

    The Brewers obtained Wright and Blanco from Colorado and got Haynes from Oakland in the complicated deal.

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