CINCINNATI - The New York Mets got Jeff Conine from the Cincinnati Reds for two minor leaguers on Monday, adding a 41-year-old player who has two World Series rings and knows how to contribute off the bench.
Conine can play first base or outfield and is adept at pinch-hitting — he led the Reds with nine hits in that role. Conine is batting .265 overall with six homers and 32 RBIs.
"We've had our eyes on him for a while," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.
The move came one day after the Mets put infielder Damion Easley on the 15-day disabled list with a severely sprained left ankle, the latest blow to the NL East leaders.
Easley is expected to miss at least a month, Minaya said. He added the Mets probably would not have made the trade if Easley had not been injured.
Conine won World Series titles with Florida in 1997 and 2003, proving himself adept at hitting in the clutch. He plans to retire after this season, and was delighted to spend the final months in contention.
"My initial thought is: First place," Conine said, standing in front of his locker in the Reds clubhouse minutes after he was informed of the trade. "I get to go back to another pennant race."
The Reds acquired 20-year-old shortstop Jose Castro and 22-year-old outfielder Sean Henry, who were playing for Class A Port St. Lucie. They plan to call up infielder/outfielder Jorge Cantu from Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday to take Conine's roster spot.
The Reds acquired the 25-year-old Cantu from Tampa Bay on July 28 in a swap of minor leaguers. Cantu hit .309 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 24 games at Louisville.
Cincinnati got Conine from Philadelphia last December for a pair of minor leaguers, trying to bolster their bench and provide leadership. Conine decided this season would be his last, no matter how it finished.
He hasn't changed his mind.
"I think this is it," he said. "I can't think of a better way to go out than doing it in the playoffs in New York."
The Mets were off Monday. Conine had a flight to New York on Monday night and expected to be with the team for the start of a series against San Diego on Tuesday. At the time of the trade, the Mets had the best winning percentage in the NL and led their division by five games.
Conine appeared in 32 playoff games for the Marlins in 1997 and 2003, and was an important contributor to their titles. He batted .308 in the two division series, .310 in the two NL championship series, and .294 in his two World Series.
While with the Marlins, Conine played with about a half-dozen current Mets, including Moises Alou, Luis Castillo and Carlos Delgado.
"This is like the Marlins North," Conine said.
Several teams were interested in acquiring Conine before the trade deadline, but none of the offers thrilled the Reds. When Easley hurt his ankle, the Mets' pursuit intensified.
"Damion Easley's injury might have accelerated things," general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "They've had interest in him for quite a while, as did other teams."
Conine started 49 games at first base for the Reds. He also finished one game at third base.
He turned into one of Krivsky's favorite players during his stay in Cincinnati. Krivsky was glad to give him the chance to finish his career with a contender.
"I'm kind of becoming a pseudo Mets fan," Krivsky said.