What could have been?
Before injuries struck, Griffey was expected to break HR record

Ken Griffey Jr. - not Barry Bonds - was supposed to be the one to break Hank Aaron's career home run record.

That was certainly the talk in 2000, when Griffey returned home to Cincinnati from Seattle and signed a nine-year, $116.5 million contract with the Reds.

The deal was then the richest in baseball and Griffey was projected to pass Aaron before the deal ended.

Then came the injuries.

Griffey, 37, has played just one full season with the Reds. Baseball fans - and the outfielder - are left to wonder what might have been.

The left-handed slugger reached two milestones during the Reds' three-game sweep of the Braves at Turner Field, but they were ones he was expected to pass years ago.

In the series opener, Griffey passed Frank Robinson for sixth on the all-time home run list with No. 587. He reached 2,500 hits, in the finale, becoming the 84th player to do so.

"I was bound to get there sometime," Griffey said. "But it was nice.

"The things I've been through through the years, I just don't take anything for granted. I appreciate everything that happens."

Griffey, moved from center to right field and enjoying a rare healthy season, left Atlanta batting .287 with 24 homers and 65 RBIs. He was the leading National League vote-getter for the All-Star Game.

Although not what he once was, Griffey can certainly still play. Now, it's a question of how much longer he'll be playing in Cincinnati.

ESPN's Peter Gammons reported during the All-Star break that Griffey told him that he expected to be traded by the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Griffey, however, denied saying that.

His contract runs through next season, with the Reds having an option for 2009. He is owed $12.5 million this year and the same in 2008. By today's standards, that's certainly not outlandish.

Asked last weekend while the Reds were in New York if he wanted to be traded or would accept a deal, Griffey would only say, "I can't control who they talk to or who calls them. All I can do is go out there and play baseball."

But he did remind reporters, "I do have control over where I can go or where I want to go."

Griffey can veto any deal. There are only two places other than Cincinnati that Griffey has indicated in the past that he would like to play.

One is Atlanta, because of the Braves organization and the proximity to his offseason home in Orlando.

The other is Chicago, the Cubs seeming to be the more likely landing spot if he was dealt.

The Cubs, the National League's hottest team, need outfield help. Plus Griffey and manager Lou Piniella are close.

Still, the Reds may be reluctant to deal their only drawing card. Instead, it may be slugger Adam Dunn who is traded. A number of other Reds are also available, including starter Kyle Lohse, reliever David Weathers and first baseman Jeff Conine.

Griffey may retire after next season, happy to spend time with his family. But there is no question that he can help a team the rest of this season and in 2008.

Griffey showed that again against the Braves. He was 5-for-13 and drove in six runs. He walked five times and stole two bases.

"He looks great," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It looks like his injuries are a thing of the past. He's graceful again and he's got that great swing.

"There's no doubt he would have challenged the record. He's going to hit 40 homers this season. He still looks like the great player."

SideBar: Who's on the market?

Ken Griffey Jr. will likely stay in Cincinnati, but there are some other interesting names who could be trading teams by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Here are 10, listed in alphabetical order:

' Jose Contreras, RHP, White Sox

In big swoon, but might be up to a turnaround.

' Octavio Dotel, RHP, Royals

Everyone is looking for help in the bullpen.

' Adam Dunn, OF, Reds

Feared slugger, but plagued by strikeouts.

' Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox

Not player he once was, but still dangerous.

' Eric Gagne, RHP, Rangers

Ex-Cy Young closer finally back from injuries.

' Matt Morris, RHP, Giants

Heads slim group of available starting pitchers.

' Mike Piazza, DH, Athletics

Near end of line, but might help AL contender.

' Mark Teixiera, 1B, Rangers

Former All-Star becomes a free agent after 2008.

' Miguel Tejada, SS, Orioles

Hurt, but no-trade rights kick in after this season.

' Dimitri Young, 1B, Nationals

Team's lone All-Star a major comeback story.