|First baseman/outfielder Jeff Conine was dealt to a contender Monday in what has practically become an annual tradition. The Reds dealt the 17-year veteran to the Mets in exchange for shortstop Jose Castro and outfielder Sean Henry, both of whom were playing for high Class A St. Lucie. Conine now has changed teams via an August trade three times–to the Marlins in 2003 and to the Phillies in 2006–in the past five years.|
|The 41-year-old Conine, who is contemplating retirement after the season, is not the hitter he was even two years ago, but he can help the right team in the right role. That team could be the Mets, who lack a righthanded-hitting option off the bench (after the injury of Damion Easley on Aug. 18) or at first base. Conine also plays both corner outfield spots and could share time in right field with Shawn Green, himself an August trade acquisition by the Mets, in 2006. Though his season line (.265/.320/.409 with six homers in 215 at-bats) is below-average for the positions he plays, Conine is still effective against lefties. He’s batted .266/.327/.477 against them this year. A 58th-round pick of the Royals in 1987, Conine has enjoyed a standout career, playing on two all-star teams and on the Marlins’ two World Series-winning teams. In 2,003 career games, he’s hit .285/.347/.444 with 214 home runs and 1,066 RBIs.|
|Castro, 20, opened the year in the Florida State League, despite hitting just .219/.286/.251 for low Class A Hagerstown in 2006, indicating that his glove is ahead of his bat. All the same, the switch-hitting Castro, who was taken in the 32nd round of the 2005 draft from Miami-Dade CC North, has put together a fine offensive season, considering his age and experience. He hit .318/.363/.383 with 12 doubles in 308 at-bats for St. Lucie, but with very limited secondary skills. Castro walked 11 times (his OBP was buoyed by 11 hit-by-pitches) and was successful in just seven of his 17 stolen base attempts.
Though Henry, 22, has made much slower progress than Castro, he was beginning to find his groove with St. Lucie. A 20th-round pick in 2004 from Diablo Valley (Calif.) CC, Henry spent nearly three full years in short-season ball, not joining low Class A Hagerstown until last August. An aggressive, athletic player with both bat and running speed, the righthanded-hitting Henry was off to a .293/.355/.456 start with St. Lucie, with 11 homers and 57 RBIs in 450 at-bats. He also chipped in 26 doubles, seven triples and 18 steals (in 29 attempts). Drafted as a shortstop, Henry was moved to second base in 2005 and to center field the next year, where he has shown aptitude.
|The swap appears to be even for both sides. In Conine, the Mets add the righthanded bat they need–and an experienced postseason performer (.304/.365/.382 in 102 at-bats) at that. The Reds, meanwhile, got two players who, at worst, provide organizational depth, but who could develop into major league reserves.|