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Tuesday, December 14, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Griffey Rejects Trade From M's To Mets -- Three-Team Deal May Be Best Option For Seattle Now

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Saying no-go on a trade to the New York Mets, Ken Griffey Jr. proved he meant it when he said he would be nowhere next year other than Cincinnati or Seattle.

So why are the Mariners still trying to run through this stop sign, talking to other teams about him?

There could be a three-way deal in the future, if not in the works.

"It could be the way to go," Seattle General Manager Pat Gillick said after news broke that Griffey had nixed a trade to New York late last night. "It wouldn't surprise me. But we haven't heard anything specific along those lines."

Gillick agreed that a multi-team swap would be one way around the antler-lock between the Reds and Mariners, a way to facilitate what seems unlikely, if not impossible, after Cincinnati incinerated its interest Saturday.

Griffey's agent, Brian Goldberg, saw hope in a three-way trade.

"Four teams did a deal Monday," he said. "Pat Gillick is good enough to work a three-way trade for Junior, as long as he winds up in Cincinnati, if he's leaving Seattle. As long as it's all prearranged. Kenny is not going to approve a trade to a team that is saying it `intends' to trade him again later."

Could it be the only way to go now?

"Sometimes," Gillick said, "the longer you go, things change."

This apparently was the philosophy Seattle had followed in resuming Griffey talks with the Mets, almost as soon as Reds GM Jim Bowden announced two days ago that he was ending his efforts to trade for the Mariner star.

Seattle and New York officials never said clearly that a trade had been worked out, but apparently talks centering on starter Octavio Dotel, closer Armando Benitez and outfielder Roger Cedeno had produced something close enough to a deal that Griffey was asked for his approval, his right as a 10-5 player.

Seattle team president Chuck Armstrong called Goldberg about 11 o'clock Eastern Time last night and said his team had worked something out. Would Griffey approve?

"I told him no, but passed the request on to Kenny, who said no pretty quickly," Goldberg said. "Chuck had asked for a quick response, since the Mets had to know. Kenny did talk it over briefly with Melissa and his mom and dad. Then he got back to me and it was `no.' "

Goldberg said Griffey feels badly the way this has evolved, now rejecting a move to a team that was on his original list of go-to clubs.

"Kenny has changed his mind on that list, narrowing it to only the Reds," Goldberg said. "But according to what I heard from the Mariners, the Mets changed their minds, too. In early talks, Mr. Wilpon told Chuck Armstrong that while he had mild interest in Griffey, he was most interested in (Alex) Rodriguez."

Seattle has said it is not trading Rodriguez.

"You can't have it both ways," Goldberg said. "Players are often criticized for not honoring their contracts. Kenny is committed to honoring his. How can he be faulted for wanting to stay in Seattle? In refusing a trade here, he is merely exercising his rights. How can he be criticized for this?"

If officials of either club feel bad, they did not show it.

"It's been made clear to us that right now Griffey would prefer not to be traded to the Mets," said New York GM Steve Phillips. "I'm not going to confirm a deal was in place, but I can confirm he didn't want to come to the Mets in a trade."

Gillick said Griffey's refusal to New York was no surprise.

"We anticipated this response," the Seattle GM said. "We thought something could be worked out. This is not a disappointment. You stay optimistic and plan to keep trudging along."

NOTES

The Mariners got their man in the annual Rule 5 draft of unprotected minor-leaguers when they took outfielder Chad Alexander off the New Orleans' roster.

The Mariners actually had Cleveland minor-league pitcher Jared Camp at the top of their wish list but knew they'd never get him. He went to the first team picking, Minnesota. The Twins turned around and dealt Camp to the No. 2 team in the draft, Florida.

Alexander was the top position player - No. 2 overall - on Seattle's list, and they were pleased when they got him with the 15th pick.

The right-handed hitter, known more for offense than defense, batted .369 for Maryvale of the Arizona Fall League this year, third best average. He led the league with 55 hits.

"We had good reports from the Fall League," said Roger Jongewaard, M's director of scouting. "He's a natural hitter, a baseball player rather than a big talent."

-- Agent Tony Attanasio fed the guesswork on a Griffey trade to the Mets in a roundabout way as he talked about the Mets' interest in Japanese closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, whose first choice is still Seattle. "The Mets told me they may trade their closer (Benitez)," Attanasio said.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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