Ken Griffey Jr is returning to the Seattle Mariners, choosing the city that gave him his start over one closer to his family.
Griffey, fifth on the list of all-time home run hitters, agreed a one-year deal with Seattle on Wednesday, having rejected a move to the Atlanta Braves.
“He’s coming home ... I can’t begin to tell you how ecstatic we are. He is, too,” Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said in confirming the deal.
Zduriencik called 39-year-old Griffey “arguably one of the greatest athletes to ever play in the Seattle area.”
The deal is for at least US$2 million, plus incentives, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations who requested anonymity because the Mariners would not discuss contract details.
The incentives could earn Griffey an additional US$1 million or more.
Now that the Mariners have determined Griffey is healthy following knee surgery — he passed an extensive physical on Sunday — Seattle are hoping he brings at least a semblance of the impetus he provided in the mid-1990s.
Seattle lost 101 games last season and haven’t been the playoffs since 2001.
Atlanta appeared to be Griffey’s choice on Tuesday for the same reason the former Mariners star left Seattle in 2000: geography.
The Braves’ spring training camp is about a 20-minute drive from the Griffey family home in Orlando, Florida, and Atlanta is about an hour away by plane.
But after conflicting reports about where the aging star would settle, Griffey ultimately chose to follow through on his proclamation that he wanted to finish his career as a Mariner.
“We were informed tonight that Ken Griffey Jr has decided to return to Seattle,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren, who absorbed another in a series of disappointments.
“We will continue to be open to other possibilities to improve our outfield offense and, at the same time, give our young players an opportunity to show us they can win that job,” he said.
Griffey, son of former MLB slugger Ken Griffey, made his first opening day start with the Mariners as a 19-year-old in 1989. He stayed for 11 seasons before he asked for a trade closer to his home. The Mariners obliged by sending him to Cincinnati just before the 2000 season.
He has been hampered by injuries since he left and had knee surgery following last season, the last half of which he spent with the Chicago White Sox.
He is the Mariners’ career leader in home runs (398), slugging percentage (.569) and trails only Edgar Martinez in team history in games played with 1,535.
He’s also second to Martinez in Seattle history in hits, RBIs, extra-base hits, at-bats, doubles, runs and total bases.