Reds acquire Conine from Phillies

Reds acquire Conine from Phillies

CINCINNATI -- With the Reds in pursuit of a right-handed hitter most of this offseason, several names had surfaced as potential fits -- ranging from Craig Wilson to Eduardo Perez to Mark Loretta.

But Cincinnati general manager Wayne Krivsky, who prefers to work in the shadows while keeping all potential moves under the radar, acquired someone whose name was not so prominent in Hot Stove chatter.

It was Jeff Conine, who came over in a trade from the Phillies in exchange for Minor Leaguers Brad Key and Javon Moran on Thursday.

Scouring around to replace free-agent departure Rich Aurilia, Krivsky had kicked the tires on several right-handed hitters and spoke with agents and other clubs during the Winter Meetings. However, Conine's name only surfaced more recently.

"We just felt like this was our best alternative," Krivsky said. "It just came about really in the last couple of days. I had him on the list of players that might be acquired by trade to fill that type of role we've been looking for. We just felt after talking to all of our scouts that this was the best alternative that was available to us. The cost was right in terms of his contract, and also the players that were involved. We felt like it was a fair deal."

Last season, Conine batted .268 with 10 home runs and 66 RBIs for the Orioles and Phillies. He was dealt from Baltimore to Philadelphia on Aug. 27. A 16-year veteran, the 40-year-old is a .286 career hitter with a .348 on-base percentage and was a member of the Marlins' World Series champion teams in 1997 and 2003.

Conine will make $2 million in 2007 as part of an option that vested when he surpassed 450 plate appearances in 2006. He became expendable when the Phillies signed free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth on Wednesday.

"It was a little bit of a surprise, obviously, a couple of days before Christmas, to get the call from [Phillies GM] Pat Gillick," said Conine, the 46th player Krivsky has acquired since taking over in February. "I didn't have a long tenure there in Philadelphia and I know the Reds were a very competitive ball club last year. I'm looking forward to the challenge of making them a little better and competing for a playoff spot."

The Reds wanted their right-handed hitter to have experience at first base as a potential platoon complement for lefty hitting Scott Hatteberg. In Conine, Cincinnati gets someone who can play first and either corner outfield spot. The club currently has a vacancy in right field as well that Conine could split with Ryan Freel, Chris Denorfia, Bubba Crosby and others.

"[Outfield] is almost exclusively what I played with Philly," Conine said. "I played mostly first in Baltimore but some outfield, too. I'm as comfortable at both spots -- right, left or first."

"Sounds good to me," Reds manager Jerry Narron chimed in.

Not one that prefers to field the same lineup everyday, Narron envisioned taking advantage of Conine's versatility.

"He hits right-handed pitching real well too," Narron said. "So he might see a lot of time against right-handed pitching. We'll just talk this thing out and see where it leads, and we just expect him to give us great at-bats, whether it's off the bench or in a platoon or regular situation."

Conine, a two-time All-Star in 1994-95, is a career .303 hitter vs. lefties and a .280 hitter against right-handers. He isn't considered a power hitter, and his career-best 26 homers came a decade ago in 1996. But he should be someone that can take advantage of hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

To make room on the Reds' 40-man roster for Conine, infielder Brendan Harris was designated for assignment. Going to Philadelphia, Moran is an outfielder that batted .327 last season, combined at Class A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga. Key batted .220 between Class A Dayton and Sarasota.

This wasn't the first time Krivsky had tried to land Conine. As an assistant GM and National League scout for the Twins, he scouted him while Conine played for Florida. The Twins nearly signed Conine a couple of years ago before he decided to sign with Baltimore.

"He was someone I liked and admired as a scout," Krivsky said. "I liked the way he went about his business, real professional. He takes good at-bats. He's a tough out. He knows what he's doing at the plate. He can play different positions. He's just a classy veteran that I think will be a great addition to the team."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.