PEORIA, Ariz. — Ken Griffey Jr. could get a total of $5 million this year in his return to Seattle if he stays healthy and fans flock to see him.
The Mariners have layered performance bonuses based upon plate appearances and attendance that could net Griffey an additional $3 million — on top of the $2 million in base salary that's in the one-year contract baseball's leading active home run hitter agreed to Saturday.
The 39-year-old Griffey could earn $3 million more if the Mariners have a paid attendance total of 3 million, he has 500 plate appearances and he does not go on the disabled list, according to salary figures obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik has said signing Griffey was based upon researched baseball reasons, such as thinking Griffey is as healthy as he's been in years following knee surgery, and Seattle's need for a powerful left-handed bat.
Yet Griffey's contract, potentially richer than first thought, shows the Mariners realize the boon the beloved slugger's return could become to the franchise's bottom line. Griffey could essentially pay for himself, if he and his Mariners have a big year.
The Mariners lost 101 games and drew 2.3 million fans last year. That was the worst-attended home schedule since the team moved into fancy Safeco Field in 1999, Griffey's final season in Seattle before he was traded to his hometown Cincinnati Reds. Team president Chuck Armstrong said it was the first year since the move that the Mariners lost money.
"And it was a significant loss," he said.
The last time Seattle drew 3 million fans was in 2003.
"If he plays and we draw and we win, he ought to get more money," said Armstrong, who lobbied Griffey all winter to come back to the place where he spent his first 11 seasons and became a superstar. "I hope I write those checks."
Atlanta made a late push to sign Griffey, fifth on the career home run list with 611. Yet the Braves did not offer him incentive money based on attendance.
While not unheard of, there are only a handful of players each year who have bonuses in their contracts tied to attendance.
Griffey can earn $250,000 each for 450 and then 500 plate appearances. If Seattle draws 2 million fans this season, he would get $100,000 more for 300 plate appearances, $200,000 more for 350 plate appearances and $200,000 more for 400 plate appearances.
The money increases if more fans come. Griffey gets an additional $200,000 each if Seattle's paid attendance is 2.1 million and he has 300 plate appearances; 2.15 million fans come and he has 350 plate appearances; 2.2 million come and he has 400 plate appearances; 2.25 million come with 450 plate appearances; and 2.3 million fans are coupled with 500 plate appearances.
Griffey has averaged 556 plate appearances per season the last four years. He had 575 plate appearances last season, when he played through a knee injury that eventually required arthroscopic surgery in October.
Additionally, if he is on the major league roster through July 31, Griffey gets $50,000 each for paid attendance of 2.35 million, 2.4 million, 2.45 million, 2.5 million, 2.55 million and 2.6 million.
If he is on the major league roster through the last day of the regular season, he gets $100,000 each for attendance of 2.65 million, 2.7 million, 2.75 million, 2.8 million, 2.85 million, 2.95 million and 3 million.
Those roster bonuses would be prorated for any days Griffey spends on the disabled list.
Armstrong said the Mariners expected to draw about 2 million fans in a struggling economy before they signed Griffey. Like many teams in professional sports recently, Seattle has watched season-ticket sales decline.
Armstrong said the Mariners were averaging about 2,000 total tickets sold per day this winter, until Griffey agreed to return last week. They sold 23,000 individual tickets in the first two days after Griffey's decision.
Griffey's contract also includes common award bonuses: $50,000 for being an All-Star starter and $25,000 for selection as a reserve; $150,000 for winning the MVP award; $50,000 for being a Gold Glove defensive player; $50,000 for a Silver Slugger award; and $100,000 for being the comeback player of the year. He would get $100,000 for being the World Series MVP and $50,000 for being MVP of the league championship series.