Long-Retired Ken Griffey Jr. Still Gets Giant Chunk of Reds' 2023 Payroll

The Kid has the team's fourth-highest salary – and he's been out of MLB since 2010.

click to enlarge Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. slams one in 2005. - Photo: Ryosuke Yagi, Flickr Creative Commons
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. slams one in 2005.

Many fans bemoan the Cincinnati Reds' payroll regularly being so much lower than other MLB teams', but here's the curveball – a guy who hasn't played in nearly 15 years is getting a major portion of it in 2023.

According to figures by sports contract database Spotrac, Ken Griffey Jr. has the fourth-highest salary on this season's payroll. Despite retiring from Major League Baseball in 2010, Junior will receive $3,593,750 of the Reds' $82,624,500 projected budget without lifting a bat in uniform at Great American Ball Park. Griffey's salary is behind only injured first baseman Joey Votto's ($25 million adjusted, or more than 35% of the budget), new one-year outfielder Wil Myers ($6 million adjusted) and veteran infielder Mike Moustakas, who the Reds released in January and was picked up for a Colorado Rockies minor-league contract ($22 million adjusted for the remaining year of his contract).

Griffey retired from MLB in June 2010, hitting 630 home runs along the way. He'd played 2000-2008 for the Reds but chose in 2016 to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as a Seattle Mariner, where he'd spent his best playing years. But the Reds are still on the hook for more than $3.5 million due to a nine-year contract in 2000. That year, The Kid's overall contract totaled more than $112.5 million plus a $4 million buyout.

But Griffey agreed to defer some of his big payout – $57.5 million at 4% interest, which would be divvied up and paid annually from 2010 through 2025. Yes, that means the 53-year-old former outfielder will remain on the Reds' payroll for a couple more seasons yet.
The combination of Votto's contract, Griffey's deferred salary and team owner Bob Castellini's tight wallet could spell trouble for the Reds. According to Spotrac, the Reds' 2023 projected payroll of $82.6 million is the fifth-lowest in the MLB and well under the league average of $147.837,561.

The Reds' payroll was about $112 million in 2022, about $131 million in 2021, about $57 million in 2020 (thanks, COVID-19), about $132 million in 2019 and about $101 million in 2018. With a big drop in spending, it's been harder for the Reds to make big moves and remain in contention. Castellini said in 2022 that he was interested in cutting payroll and taking on more rookies instead of investing in veteran power.

Ahead of opening day last season, frustrated fans raised funds to erect a billboard urging Castellini to sell the team.  The Reds proceeded to post their second-ever 100-loss season, ending with a record of 62-100. The losing also kept more fans at home, with the team experiencing its lowest season attendance since 1984; just 1,395,770 people saw the Reds play at Great American Ball Park in 2022, according to attendance records.

Cincinnati last won the National League Central in 2012 and 2010. Before that, the team won the Central in 1995. The Reds haven't won the division or the World Series since 1990.

Meanwhile, Griffey has remained busy, kicking off the MLB Field of Dreams game with his father Ken Griffey Sr. in August and swinging for the fences while coaching Team U.S.A. to a second-place the World Baseball Classic in March.

About opening day

The Cincinnati Reds will kickstart the 2023 season with a home opener against NL Central opponent the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 30 at Great American Ball Park. The season comes with a twist – each MLB team will meet each other on the field at least once. In addition, all 30 franchises are scheduled to play opening day on March 30 – the first time every team will do so on the same date since 1968.

First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m.

The Reds' opening day parade will step off at noon March 30 from Findlay Market. Former Cincinnati Reds pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Danny Graves will serve as grand marshals. Other former athletes participating will include Reds outfielder George Foster, Bengals kicker Jim Breech, Bengals tackle and offensive lineman Anthony Munoz, Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson and Olympic track star Mary Danner Wineberg. There also will be a wide array of other veterans from the Reds, Bengals, FC Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati and MMA fighters. 

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