The Kid on His Way Home?

It appears to only be a matter of time now before Ken Griffey Jr. is brought back to Seattle, where he grew up as a player and where he sparked the imaginations of many both in and outside of Seattle with where his career might one day end up. Needless to say that his career has not followed a path many expected and we arrive now, in 2009, with Griffey reduced to what should be a positional role.

Forecasting for Griffey comes with a bit of an asterisk since he apparently played with a knee injury throughout 2008 that hampered his power and range and which he is now recovered from. CHONE and Marcel are going to be ignorant of that information (probably for the best) and they both present similar forecasts for Griffey, a slightly below average .330-2 wOBA over 452-79 at bats. As a DH, we would knock another five runs off that hitting projection, subtract another 17.5 runs for the lack of position and we end up with a player right at replacement level. His OF defense is such that him playing the field probably comes out to the same level despite the 15-run boost in adjustments.

A smart team however is not going to employ Griffey in a full time role. Notably, an effort to platoon him away from facing left-handed pitchers would help to improve his overall line as he’s posted a near-200 OPS point split over the last three seasons. In the best case scenario, the Mariners could hope for a return to his 2007-level of offense, while primarily manning DH with only occasional forays out into the field. That level would make Griffey worth around 1 to 1.5 wins.

That tells us that this is going to be a pretty inconsequential move, value-wise, for the Mariners in 2009. Certainly, sentimentally-wise, this is a slam dunk for them and assuming Griffey doesn’t command much money (an appropriate amount would be around $2-3 million), the main concern going forward will be making sure that Griffey doesn’t take too many at bats away from younger developing players.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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