Ken Griffey Jr. is polishing off his diplomatic skills this offseason.

The future Hall of Famer has been enlisted as a U.S. envoy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and will try to help strengthen America's image abroad.

"When Ken Griffey travels overseas, one of his greatest objectives will be to talk to young people and to spark their interest in America and in our culture," Rice told the Tacoma Tribune.

"I'm looking forward to this opportunity to teach kids and develop them," Griffey said. "I think being prepared like I was when I was a kid, having my dad there who taught me about baseball at an early age, helped me throughout my career."

Hoffman honored with Branch Rickey Award: Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader, received the Branch Rickey Award on Saturday. The award, given by the Denver Rotary Club, recognizes "baseball's humanitarians."

"My responsibility comes from my parents," Hoffman told the Denver Post. "If you are given that platform to make an impact, it's your responsibility. Not just if you feel like it, if you get around to it. It is an opportunity that should be utilized, when you have the platform like I do, to make a difference."

Hoffman often spends time with children suffering from kidney disease and cancer and visits military bases. His father was a Marine during World War II.

"I understand I put on this [baseball] uniform, it's sort of like the police officer or the fireman -- it becomes almost awe-inspiring," Hoffman said. "It can grow you out of proportion. ... We're all human beings, we're all trying to strive towards, hopefully, the same thing: Common good, treating your neighbor as you want to be treated."

Ibanez finds Marlins an intriguing destination: The Marlins and free agent outfielder Raul Ibanez may have some interest in each other.

"I've known [manager Fredi Gonzalez] since I was in ninth grade," Ibanez, 36, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I've always been open to the possibility about playing in Miami. I've followed the team closely since even before they were a team. I've always been intrigued by that possibility, especially after we played them last year and I saw how competitive they were."

Affeldt signs with Giants: The Giants became the first team this season to sign another team's free agent, as they inked former Royals, Rockies and Reds pitcher Jeremy Affeldt to a two-year deal.

"I'm thrilled to have Jeremy," manager Bruce Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He's without question going to make our 'pen that much stronger with his experience and his arm. I've seen him from the other side and I never liked him coming in with his power arm."

Sampson making progress after elbow surgery: Chris Sampson is optimistic that he is recovering quickly from the surgery on his right elbow.

"It's going real good," Sampson told the Houston Chronicle. "I get to see the doctor on Thursday."

The Houston pitcher had the surgery on Oct. 1, and while feeling better, he is still limited in what he can do, like play golf.

"I'm just putting," he said with a smile. "I'll see Dr. [Tom] Mehlhoff on Thursday to see if I can start using some light weights. In my opinion, I think I'm ahead of schedule -- no pain, no soreness."

Randy Johnson likely headed to new team in 2009: Randy Johnson has filed for free agency after being unable to come to contract terms with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It appears his stint with Arizona has come to an end with this move, The Arizona Republic reported.

"Randy instructed us not to file for free agency until we made every effort to reach an agreement," read a statement, issued through agents Barry Meister and Alan Nero. "The Diamondbacks have a budget based on their club's financial situation and obviously viewed Randy's contract in that context. Randy considered every reasonable compromise including offering to take a 50% pay cut, all to remain a Diamondback. However, the economic situation did not lend itself to an agreement."

Pedro Martinez seeking a strong finish with Mets: Pedro Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, told the New York Daily News that Martinez has "a lot of baseball left in him" and wants to remain with the Mets. He also said Martinez is healthy and ready for 2009.

"He's not ready to retire. He had a tough year, first with the injury and then with the death of his dad. It took a toll, but Pedro's put all of that behind him. He's very competitive and would like to finish his career strong," Cuza said. "He feels fantastic and he's been working hard."

Kouzmanoff expected to rebound from shoulder surgery: Kevin Kouzmanoff had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week and "should be ready by Spring Training," general manager Kevin Towers told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"The rotator cuff and labrum looked fine," Towers said. "If they would have found damage to the rotator cuff, he could have been out four or five months and missed the first two or three months of the season. But he should be able to go full bore in Spring Training."

Lopez hopes to return to Cardinals: Free agent Felipe Lopez, who enjoyed a revival after joining the Cardinals late last season, says that no matter what role they have in mind for him, he'd love to head back to St. Louis for the 2009 season.

"At this point I really would like to come back to the Cardinals," Lopez told MLB.com. "I really liked it there. I was able to be myself. I was really comfortable there. Coming from Washington to the atmosphere in St. Louis was night and day.

"All I want to do is win, honestly. I want to be in a championship-type atmosphere. I think those things when they tell you at the beginning of the season, how many at-bats you're going to get, I think you determine that as a player. You come out playing your butt off, I think we can control that. They're not going to sit somebody down that's doing it."

Hamels a guest on shows he grew up watching: It's been a busy albeit short offseason for Cole Hamels, who earlier this week talked about making his rounds on the talk-show circuit as well as handling all of the attention that comes with being named the World Series MVP.

"This whole run has been outstanding. It wasn't anything that I really had expected," Hamels told the Philadelphia Daily News. "With the whole LA experience, these are shows that I have grown up watching.

"It has been a surreal moment," he said.

Morneau focusing on World Series title: Justin Morneau didn't win the AL MVP on Tuesday, but prior to the announcement he noted that he thought he'd had a better season this year than in 2006, his AL MVP season.

"I think I may have been a better player this year in terms of leadership and my role on this team. I was probably more consistent this year than in 2006," Morneau told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "But... my one goal is to win a World Series and celebrate that with the people of Minnesota."

Dempster signs four-year deal with Cubs: Ryan Dempster, who enjoyed a career year last year in Chicago, has signed a new four-year deal with the Cubs in part, he says, because he senses the team has some things left to do.

"Given as close as we've been the last two years, I thought, 'This is where I want to be,'" Dempster told the Chicago Tribune. "I enjoy so much playing there.

"Was there more money on the open market? I'm sure there probably was. Who knows if there would've been interest in five years. You never know. That's a question that's never going to be answered. But personally, I don't even care. I'm happy with what I have, and it's more money than I could ever dream of growing up and playing baseball."

Renteria eyes Cardinals: Free agent Edgar Renteria, who was with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1999-2004, wouldn't mind a return to the club.

"[Fellow agent] Jeff Lane and I have tried to identify some places where we think Edgar would be a good fit," agent Barry Meister told MLB.com. "Clearly St. Louis and San Francisco are two clubs where they seem to have a fit and where I know Edgar would really have some interest. That's really where we are today. There haven't been any long discussions about it, but we've identified those two clubs as being among the clubs that would be a good fit."

-- Red Line Editorial