SAN FRANCISCO — There are professional athletes who respond to trades by declaring that “it's a business,” and there are those who outwardly display their disappointment, even bitterness.
Then there is Andres Torres' assessment of the 2011 deal that shipped him to New York for Angel Pagan, who would play center field on a championship club as Torres struggled for the lowly Mets.
“It was a great trade,” Torres said excitedly. “Pagan is a great player and a great guy. San Francisco won the World Series again and (Pagan) was great.”
That last word was used often by Torres on Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers reported to Scottsdale Stadium for the start of the 2013 season. In a crowded clubhouse filled with returning champions and young minor leaguers soaking in the big league life, nobody had a bigger smile than Torres, who circled the room with hugs, handshakes and sometimes both.
“I'm so happy to be back,” Torres said. “This is a dream come true.”
His lifelong dream was first realized in 2010, when Torres, a journeyman outfielder, started 138 games, hit 16 homers and scored 84 runs for a championship club. Torres was popular in the clubhouse and a darling of the fan base, but his career crashed back to earth in 2011. Torres hit .221 with just four homers in the failed quest for a repeat title. His OPS dropped from .823 to .643, and in December he was traded to the Mets, along with right-hander Ramon Ramirez.
A calf injury landed Torres on the disabled list early last season and he never recovered, hitting .230 with just three homers and 13 stolen bases. Free agency can be a barren wasteland for veteran outfielders coming off back-to-back poor seasons, but Torres is a versatile outfielder capable of playing all three positions, and when healthy, he remains a burner on the basepaths.
Torres said the Mets tried to bring him back and the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers expressed interest. But throughout the process, he was eyeing only one destination.