Overrated, yet still great, Ken Griffey Jr. left a mark

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griffey.jpgA massive talent with a big smile he wore constantly, Ken Griffey Jr. burst onto the scene in 1989, hitting 16 homers and finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing the entire season at age 19.
Griffey just made it look so easy. And there were times in his mid-20s when he really was baseball’s best player. He led the AL in homers four times, won an MVP award in 1997 and finished in the top five on four other occasions. Capitalizing on one of baseball’s greatest offensive eras, he drove in 140 runs in three straight seasons.
Griffey, though, was not the best player of the 1990s. That was Barry Bonds. He never led the American League in batting average or on-base percentage. He topped the circuit in slugging only once. It’s true he had more defensive value than most of the guys who were outslugging him. But the one MVP award was truly all he deserved.
We know what happened to Griffey after the 1990s. Following a trade to the Reds in Feb. 2000, he put up one All-Star caliber season and then spent much of the next four years on the DL. In 8 1/2 years with the Reds, he played in 945 games, hitting .270/.362/.514. Just once did he finish in the top 10 in the NL in OPS (7th in 2005).
As a Red, Griffey was a big disappointment. As a Mariner, his teams were chronic underacheivers. In his 22 seasons, Griffey went to the postseason just three times and his clubs won only one postseason series. Griffey did come through in a big way in 1995, hitting five homers in the ALDS win over the Yankees and then putting together another strong series against the Indians in the ALCS loss. However, he went on to go a mere 2-for-15 in the 1997 ALDS loss, and he wasn’t a factor in the 2008 postseason, going 2-for-10 as the White Sox were eliminated by the Rays.
Griffey is certainly a Hall of Famer. Fairly or not, he’s gone untarnished despite playing during the Steroid Era, mostly because he never looked like a user. He was a brilliant player with a gorgeous swing that produced 630 homers. Before his legs began to go, he was an outstanding center fielder.
I just wish I remembered those days better. Griffey spent about four or five too many seasons patrolling center when he would have helped the Reds more in a corner. He didn’t drive in 100 runs in any of his final 10 seasons. It’s been so long since he was a true great that it’s easy to forget just how good he was.

Nationals acquire Adam Eaton from White Sox for three top prospects

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 02: Adam Eaton #1 of the Chicago White Sox hits an RBI double against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning of the game on September 2, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The White Sox defeated the Twins 11-4. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Update (5:04 PM EST): The White Sox will receive pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning from the Nationals, per Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. MLB Pipeline rated them No. 1, 3, and 6 in the Nationals’ minor league system.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals are close to acquiring outfielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox. He notes that outfielder Victor Robles, the Nationals’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is not included in the deal.

Eaton, 28, is signed to a very team-friendly contract. He’ll earn $4 million in 2017, $6 million in ’18, and $8.4 million in ’19. His controlling team then has a club option worth $9.5 million in 2020 with a $1.5 million buyout and a $10.5 million club option in ’21 with a $1.5 million buyout.

This past season, Eaton was worth 3.9 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference after playing significantly above-average defense while batting .284/.362/.428 with 14 home runs, 59 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 706 plate appearances.

If the deal goes through, the Nationals would move Trea Turner from center field to shortstop. Meanwhile, the White Sox continue their teardown after trading Chris Sale to the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Marlins sign A.J. Ellis to a one-year, $2.5 million deal

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 28:  A.J. Ellis #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts after the final out of a game against the New York Mets at Citi Field on August 28, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Marlins have signed veteran catcher A.J. Ellis to a one-year, $2.5 million deal.

Ellis, 35, began the 2016 season with the Dodgers but went to the Phillies in the Carlos Ruiz trade near the end of August. Overall, he hit .216/.301/.298 in 196 plate appearances.

Ellis will back up J.T. Realmuto behind the dish.