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.
"This is home for me," he said. "San Francisco gave me an opportunity when I was in the minors to make the team, and gave me a job. I won the World Series here. I really appreciated those things.
"You have to do what's best for your family, but I really wanted to be here."
Torres placed multiple phone calls to manager Bruce Bochy, and when his agent began to talk terms with other teams, Torres insisted that he didn't care about money. He wanted to go where he felt comfortable.
"His message was really (about) how badly he wanted to come back," Bochy said of the phone calls. "He was a Giant at heart. I explained the situation and that I may not have a starting role here, but that wasn't important to him as much as the fact that he wanted to be back in the city with this team that he loved.
"He wanted to help out in any way."
Bochy has already mapped out Torres' path to production and envisions him in a platoon with Gregor Blanco, another speedy, defensive-minded veteran who broke through when the Giants gave him a chance. Masked by his overall struggles last season was the fact that Torres, a switch-hitter, had a .382 on-base percentage when hitting from the right side.