While I loved watching Jr. play for the Reds, I never liked the trade from day one, and not for the reasons Cameron makes. He makes decent points, but misses the biggest one.
The Reds traded for one year of Griffey, and way overpaid. He was going to be a free agent the next year and said that he was going to sign with the Reds when became one.
Since the Reds were so close to making the playoffs the year before, it made sense to trade for him, but they were only trading for the rights to him for one year. The Mariners didn't have any other trade partners for him, so really, the Reds could have named their price for him. It should have been a package of prospects, and that's it.
I'd make the Griffey trade every day of the week, twice on Saturday, and multiple times on Sunday.
It brought tremendous fan interest. It elevated the team's talent level until injuries interfered. It provided an anchor player who put the Reds on the map for a number of years.
The problem with a Griffey trade or a Votto contract is you're dealing with a single human being who can get hurt or lose abilities. So it's a risk. But I think history would show that great players win championships and if you have the chance to get one, you do it.
In short: this kind of trade isn't measured by a simple WAR calculation or salary analysis. It involves many other factors.
I remember the Mariners' statements about trading Griff. They weren't real happy about it.
As for the trade, the Reds might have avoided trading Cameron, but maybe not. The Mariners probably needed one good MLB player to save face. The Reds perhaps could have played hardball and come away cheaper, I don't think it's a given.
Like I said, I loved having Griffey as a Reds, and as a fan, I'm glad the made the trade and I do think it was worth it. I just think Bowden could have played hardball and gotten a much better deal.
If they would have kept Cameron, where would he have played? Griffey wouldn't have moved out of center for Cameron.
I was doing a little thinking about alternate scenarios and ended up posting this over on the Fangraphs thread:
The Reds clearly lost the trade in terms of production and surplus value. That alternate scenario is easy to play out. Let's imagine another, completely reasonable scenario:
The Reds desperately want Junior. But they realize they can have him after 2000 through FA; no trade required. Not wanting to go anywhere else, Junior rescinds his trade request and stays in Seattle in 2000.
Junior puts up the same season he did in Cincy -- ~5.5 WAR (1-2 more than Cameron & Tomko). He's still nursing a hammy (as he did in Cincy), but produces nonetheless. The Mariners squeeze by the A's and win the AL West. With Junior's help, they beat the inferior 87-win Yankees in the ALDS (instead of losing 4-2) and face the Mets in the World Series. It's a tough series, but the Mariners take the crown.
Now he hits free agency.
Aug '00: Chipper Jones extends with Atlanta for 8/120 (15.0 AAV)
Nov '00: Mike Mussina signs with New York for 6/88.5 (14.75 AAV)
Dec '00: Mike Hampton signs with Colorado for 8/120 (15.125 AAV)
Dec '00: Manny Ramirez signs with Boston for 8/160 (20.0 AAV)
Jan '01: Alex Rodriguez signs with Texas for 10/252 (25.2 AAV)
Feb '01: Derek Jeter extends with New York for 10/189 (18.9 AAV)
Meanwhile, Griffey and the Reds are at a bit of a standstill in negotiations. Griffey wants to be in Red and will take a hometown discount, but the Reds are extremely budget conscious. Lindner has been playing hardball with all-time Red great Barry Larkin, nearly trading him to the Mets during the 2000 season rather than extend him 3 years (he ended up getting 3/27). The Reds offer Junior 108/9 (12.0 AAV) at the Winter meetings, but Junior is hesitant to sign for less than Chipper and the union requested he wait. But now it's February and everybody is getting anxious. Manny Ramirez, who doesn't even play a premium position, got 20 a year, to say nothing about ARod's crazy 25.
What does it take to sign him? Sure, he's a year or two older than most of those guys, but he's also still the biggest star in the game, especially coming off a high profile World Series win. I think he's looking at 16+ AAV easy; I wouldn't be shocked by 20 AAV. Let's say he finally signs at what appears to be a reasonable compromise, 9/162 (18 AAV) (Note: In reality, I doubt the Reds actually end up signing him in this scenario, they just wouldn't have offered a price that the union would have let him accept).
So, in this alternate scenario you have the Reds keeping Cameron, Tomko, etc. Instead of getting 10 wins for 116.5 from Junior, a loss of about $66.5 (13 wins), the Reds get 5 wins for 157.5, a loss of twice that -- $132.5 (26 wins). Keeping Mike Cameron from 2001-03 basically makes up those 13 wins difference, but having Junior costs the Reds big time either way.
Should the Reds have traded for Junior? In retrospect, of course not. The best scenario for the Reds would have had Junior on the Cardinals, Cubs or Astros. As Reds fan, we wonder what would have happened had he either been healthy or never become a Red. We lament the loss of Cameron. But I think we forget about the other likely scenario where the Reds don't trade for him after 1999, but rather sign him in FA after 2000. Sadly, even being able to keep Cameron, they wouldn't have been any better off.
Another thought that just occurred:
The money spent on Junior cost the Reds 2-3 wins per season during the '00s. The Reds were horrible throughout the decade. While one can imagine all of the possibilities of life without Junior, the most likely one is that they still would have stunk, only without him.
And that makes me wonder. Would you rather look back on the lost decade with a broken-down Junior as its poster boy or with Adam Dunn and Eric Milton as its most memorable Reds?
Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, I say.
Great analysis RMR. It shows that these decisions aren't as simple as we think they are.
I wonder what would have happened if Jr took the same PED's as Cameron did?
Then again, I got to overdose on the good Griffey before hos move to Cincy.