The Cincinnati Reds said today they have pulled out of trade discussions involving Ken Griffey Jr., citing a five-week impasse over the Mariners' continued insistence of the inclusion of one particular player in any deal. The withdrawal of the Reds, considered the front-runners to acquire the superstar center fielder, turned the Griffey trade talks upside-down and increased the possibility he will remain in Seattle in 2000.

"We will no longer pursue a trade," said Reds General Manager Jim Bowden, speaking to reporters on the second day of baseball's winter meetings. "Neither side moved in five weeks, and it's a waste of time to continue."

Bowden said the Reds will turn their attention to other matters this week and make an attempt to sign Griffey after the 2000 season, when he will be a free agent. The Mariners have not allowed potential trade partners to negotiate a long-term deal with Griffey, but Bowden said that did not affect the Reds' decision to drop out.

That leaves the New York Mets as the apparent front-runners to acquire Griffey, although it seems increasingly likely the Mariners will retain him for the time being. Mariners GM Pat Gillick met with the Mets today.

Gillick said the Reds' decision to drop out "could stir up some action from teams that want to play, but I don't think teams are going to come out of the woodwork."

Gillick and Bowden met this morning for 40 minutes, but Bowden said the Reds' steadfast refusal to part with the player the Mariners wanted--widely believed to be second baseman Pokey Reese, who batted .285 with 10 homers and 52 RBI last season--finally scuttled talks. The Reds had offered various packages of from three to five players.

"How could they not do that [deal]?" Gillick said. "We're talking about the player of the decade, a player on the All-Century Team. And they're going to let this one player hold up the deal?"

Said Bowden: "We made a commitment to our young players. We were not going to make a Ricky Williams or Herschel Walker type of trade."

Bowden said there is "no chance, whatsoever" that the Reds would re-enter the Griffey chase.

Note: The Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox swapped a pair of former Orioles today, with infielder Manny Alexander going to the Red Sox for center fielder Damon Buford. The Red Sox, with a logjam at center field (Darren Lewis, Jermaine Allensworth), needed a utility infielder to replace Lou Merloni, who signed with a team in Japan.