Phillies send Conine to Reds

Phils send veteran Conine to Reds

PHILADELPHIA -- Indirectly, Jayson Werth traded Jeff Conine to Cincinnati.

Werth's signing made the Phillies flush with right-handed fourth-outfielder types, so they used Conine to restock their Minor League supply. In sending the 40-year-old to Cincinnati, Philadelphia received outfielder Javon Moran and infielder Brad Key.

"We weren't going to be able to give Jeff the playing time we thought we were a month ago," general manager Pat Gillick said. "When Werth was completed last week, we thought the best plan for us was to move Jeff. I know he wants playing time. I think Werth would probably get the majority of the playing time that Jeff would've gotten."

Conine joined Philadelphia in September arriving from Baltimore, and he batted .280 in 100 at-bats, with 17 RBIs, three fewer than NL MVP Ryan Howard had that month. With both teams, Conine hit .268 with 10 homers and 66 RBIs.

Trading the 16-year veteran comes with some risk for Philadelphia. Conine, who kept himself in great shape, was lauded for his professionalism and veteran leadership, and he would've been a reliable bench player. Though Werth is younger, faster and has more power, he didn't play in 2006 after having two surgeries on his left wrist, which was broken by an A.J. Burnett fastball in a Spring Training game in 2005.

The Dodgers made Werth a free agent this week by not tendering him a contract. Gillick, who drafted Werth in the first round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft while the GM of the Orioles, believes he is healthy, giving him a one-year deal with an $850,000 base salary and up to $150,000 in performance bonuses.

"He's come far in the past four months," Gillick said. "We had a hand specialist look at him. We think he's going to make a full recovery and be ready for Spring Training."

Moran should sound familiar. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2003 draft by Philadelphia, then he was sent to the Reds the following year as part of a package for Cory Lidle.

Last season, Moran played for Class A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga. In 63 games at Double-A, he hit .320 with one home run and 16 stolen bases. Key spent 2006 at Class A Dayton and Sarasota, hitting .220 with one homer and six RBIS in 42 games.

The trade also didn't address Philadelphia's remaining need -- that of a proven setup man in front of closer Tom Gordon -- and Gillick seems less optimistic in that endeavor each day.

"We're not as optimistic as we were three weeks ago," Gillick said. "It's an area we need to improve, and we're going to continue to try and do that. You never know. Things happen."

The Phillies have a four-man bullpen of Gordon, Geoff Geary, Ryan Madson and Matt Smith, and they are dangling No. 6 starter Jon Lieber to add another reliever. If the season started today, Geary would be the setup man.

Gillick knows the bullpen must be enhanced, and he is banking on teams needing starting pitching. That should happen, but pitchers like Jeff Suppan might have to find homes before Lieber and his $7.5 million salary can be moved.

The Phillies also need a left-handed hitter for the bench, an area they didn't fill last season until acquiring David Dellucci on the eve of Opening Day.

"We're confident we can get someone, a veteran guy who can come off the bench," Gillick said.

Moving Conine may have solidified a spot for Chris Coste. Though displaced by newly signed catcher Rod Barajas, Coste has shown the ability to produce clutch hits late in games.

If the season opened next week, Coste would be part of a bench that includes Abraham Nunez, Werth and Ruiz. Randall Simon is the lone left-handed option, assuming the Phillies don't make a trade.

Gillick wouldn't commit a spot to Coste, last season's feel-good story.

"We need a left-hand hitter, so consequently the fact that Werth can catch some creates some flexibility there. So if we did acquire a left-hitter, someone could be in jeopardy," Gillick said.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.