Reds send pair of minor-leaguers to Philly for Conine
CINCINNATI -- The Reds acquired Jeff Conine from the Philadelphia Phillies for a pair of minor leaguers Thursday, giving them a right-handed hitter who can share a spot at first base and play the outfield.
The 40-year-old Conine played the outfield and first base with Baltimore and Philadelphia last season, hitting .268 with 10 homers and 66 RBI. The Phillies acquired him in an August trade.
In exchange for Conine, the Phillies got infielder Brad Key and outfielder Javon Moran, both of whom played in the low minor leagues. To make room for Conine on their 40-man roster, the Reds designated infielder Brendan Harris for assignment to the minors.
One of the Reds' offseason priorities was acquiring a right-handed hitter for a lineup that revolves around left-handed hitters Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Scott Hatteberg. Conine initially might platoon with Hatteberg at first base.
"We talked about someone to go along with Scott Hatteberg," manager Jerry Narron said. "He hits right-handers well, too, so he might see a lot of time against right-handed pitching. We'll start out and see where it leads. I expect he'll give us great at-bats either off the bench or in a platoon situation."
Conine has played for Kansas City, Florida, Baltimore and Philadelphia during his 16-year career. He played in 151 games for the Marlins in 1997, when they beat Cleveland in seven games to win the World Series, and rejoined Florida for its title under manager Jack McKeon in 2003.
He opened last season with Baltimore, splitting his time between first base and the outfield. He played exclusively in the outfield for the Phillies, who obtained him in an August trade.
"It's a little bit of a surprise, coming a couple of days before Christmas," Conine said. "Obviously, I didn't have a long tenure there in Philly. I know the Reds were a very competitive ballclub last year. I look forward to the challenge of making them a little better and competing for a spot."
Conine became expendable after the Phillies signed former Dodgers outfielder Jayson Werth.
"We weren't going to be able to give Jeff the playing time that we thought we were a month ago, six weeks ago," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said. "When Werth was completed, we thought that probably the best plan for us was to move Jeff on. I know he wants to play."
Gillick said he was convinced that Werth is recovered from wrist surgery that cost him all of last season.
"We think Werth is a better option for us at this point," Gillick said.
Conine will make $2 million in 2007, the final year on his contract.
"We were continuing to look for a quality right-handed hitter, whether through the trade route or free agency," general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "We felt this was the best alternative. We had him on a list of players that might be acquired by trade to fill that role. The cost was right in terms of his contract."
The Reds were looking for someone to fill the role vacated by free agent Rich Aurilia, who played various infield positions last season and led the club with a .300 average. He split time at first base with Hatteberg, starting 37 games there.
Conine also could spend some time in the outfield. The Reds opened camp with a four-man rotation last year, then traded Wily Mo Pena to Boston for right-hander Bronson Arroyo during spring training.
Ken Griffey Jr. returns as the center fielder, and Adam Dunn is back in left.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press