Griffey talks move slowly; Player's veto power, high price tag could delay deal until season; Orioles not in running; Jays' Delgado, Hentgen also don't interest O's


DANA POINT, Calif. -- Superstar outfielder Ken Griffey remains the hottest topic of conversation as the annual general managers meeting moves into its final day, but the Seattle Mariners still haven't found the right combination of players to justify trading him.

"It could happen," said Mariners GM Pat Gillick yesterday. "If the right thing comes up, it could happen, but there are a lot of ramifications that I don't have any control over."

The Mariners can only control what they will accept in trade. Griffey, by virtue of his status as a 10-5 player (10 years of major-league service, five with the same team), has the power to veto any deal, which effectively puts him in a position to determine where he ends up.

He already has made it clear that he wants to play for a team that trains in Florida and is a reasonable flying distance from his home in Orlando, Fla. That, and the vast sum that will be required to sign him to a new contract after next season, limit the possible destinations.

The Cincinnati Reds would love to bring Griffey back to his hometown, where he would be a lock to boost attendance, but would likely have to give up a package of players that includes breakthrough first baseman Sean Casey, reliever Scott Williamson and one or two top prospects.

That asking price appears to be too steep.

"If we made the deal that's on the table, we would go from 96 wins to 79," said Reds GM Jim Bowden. "It would curtail our ability to compete in 2000, 2001 and 2002."

Bowden said yesterday he made five proposals that the Mariners rejected, and the Mariners made three proposals that the Reds rebuffed.

The New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals also are believed to be prominent among the six teams that Gillick said have shown significant interest. The Orioles, according to director of player personnel Syd Thrift, are not.

Gillick made it clear that whoever gets Griffey will have to make a major sacrifice in terms of the talent.

"This is quite a player," Gillick said. "He's closing in on 400 home runs. He's only 30 years old and he has 11 years in the big leagues at a skill position. I think the price should be high."

It is a complicated equation, since any team willing to give up that kind of talent would have to sign Griffey to a long-term extension worth upwards of $150 million, but Mariners officials seem confident that they can get something done -- if not now, then at the Winter Meetings in Anaheim, Calif., next month.

Griffey is not pressing the issue. He already has said that he will open the season in a Mariners uniform if the club needs more time to consummate a trade.

The Orioles did meet with the Mariners on Monday, but Thrift said that Griffey was not the topic of conversation, and Gillick said that the Mariners are not willing to discuss superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez.

"We're trying to sign Alex," Gillick said. "That's our goal. We are not discussing A-Rod at all."

The Orioles also are not considered a candidate to acquire Toronto Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado, who became available when he broke off contract negotiations with the club recently, or 1996 Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen, who is rumored to be headed to the St. Louis Cardinals.

"We have not had any conversations with the Baltimore Orioles," said Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash.

The New York Daily News, meanwhile, reported today that the Mets are close to obtaining Delgado and pitcher David Wells from the Blue Jays.

Thrift met with four more teams yesterday in his search for pitching help. He and scouts Don Welke and Bob Schaefer huddled with officials from the Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but probably will wrap things up today without completing any deals.

"We've gone past the exploratory stage," Thrift said half-seriously. "Now we're at the advanced exploratory stage. I'm always optimistic, but I'm also realistic."

The Orioles probably won't do anything until they have time to explore their options in the free-agent market, which opens for bidding tomorrow.

Thrift is expected to make contact with the agents for free-agent pitchers Aaron Sele, David Cone, Mike Jackson, Graeme Lloyd and Mike Stanton.

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