“I get a call and they said I’ve been traded to San Diego. I’m already here,” Quentin said on a conference call shortly after the trade was announced Saturday.
Four years after trading Quentin from Arizona to the White Sox, new Padres general manager Josh Byrnes is bringing him home.
Byrnes made his second bold move in two weeks when he acquired Quentin for two prospects.
“Trading him is pretty high on my list of regrets,” Byrnes said. “That group in Arizona had a lot of talent. Carlos always stood out for his intensity and his style of play. Having a chance to get him back became very appealing here this offseason.”
The trade is expected to bolster San Diego’s offense, which was dreadful as the Padres finished last in the NL West at 71-91, 23 games behind the Diamondbacks. Quentin has four consecutive 20-homer seasons, including 36 in 2008.
“Improving our offense is a priority this offseason and the acquisition of Carlos gives us a proven middle-of-the-order bat,” Byrnes said. “We specifically targeted Carlos because of his production and his hard-nosed style of play.”
While Quentin started the last two seasons in right field for the White Sox, he’s penciled into left field with the Padres.
The White Sox received minor league pitchers Simon Castro, a right-hander, and Pedro Hernandez, a left-hander.
“San Diego came back and obviously put something on the table that attracted us,” White Sox GM Ken Williams said. “Both of these guys are guys that we can ultimately see, and we can see them very quickly here.”
Castro went 7-8 with a 5.63 ERA in 22 starts between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson last season.
“He will be the first to admit that last year he did not distinguish himself amongst some of his peers that were also considered top prospects at the time,” Williams said. “We’ve got to get him back there. Just one year ago you wouldn’t have been able to get this type of guy.”
Williams said Dayan Viciedo goes into spring training as Chicago’s starting right fielder.
On Dec. 17, Byrnes dealt right-hander Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for four players, including starter Edinson Volquez and Yonder Alonso, the leading contender to start at first base.
The two moves reverse a recent Padres trend of dealing big leaguers for prospects and shedding salary. Byrnes said the Padres were able to make these deals because his predecessor, Jed Hoyer, did a good job of acquiring prospects over the previous two years before he left to become GM of the Chicago Cubs.
“Talking to (CEO) Jeff Moorad, if we had ways to stretch our payroll, get the right guys to be competitive in 2012, maybe be a surprise team in 2012, and with that foundation that gives us a chance at real sustained success for a number of years, that’s the ideal,” Byrnes said.
While GM of the Diamondbacks, Byrnes traded Quentin to the White Sox for minor league first baseman Chris Carter in December 2007. The Diamondbacks had taken Quentin in the first round of the 2003 amateur draft after he helped Stanford reach the College World Series three straight times.
Byrnes said the Diamondbacks had a surplus of outfielders in 2007 and moving Quentin helped build a trade package for Dan Haren, who was obtained from Oakland 11 days after Quentin was traded to Chicago. Carter was one of six players Arizona sent to Oakland in the Haren deal.
“My real regret is really how much over time we missed his intensity,” said Byrnes, who oversaw an NL West title in 2007 with Arizona, but was fired in July 2010. “A group that had success and now failure and now success, could have used his personality around a little bit.”
A shoulder injury limited Quentin to just one game in the final month of 2011, but Byrnes said the outfielder is healthy.
The 29-year-old Quentin hit .254 with 24 home runs, a career-high 31 doubles and 77 RBIs in 118 games in 2011, when he made his second All-Star team.
In 2008, he made his first All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger award and finished in the top five of AL Most Valuable Player voting.
Quentin has heard the talk about how spacious Petco Park eats up fly balls, but isn’t worried.
“I was here when the park was first built and I’m familiar with it. I played in it. I’m fortunate to have the size physically and be able to be successful personally. I’ve always had the approach of hitting first and staying within myself. I’ve found that to be most ideal to produce power. I’m not planning on changing that at all. I’ll become familiar with the ballpark.”
Byrnes thinks Quentin will be OK.
“He’s got huge power, so he has hit a good number of homers to right, right-center,” the GM said. “It’s a tall order for any player in Petco, but from center to the left-field foul pole, they’re gone in any park. … Since we play half our games on the road, he’ll be a real threat. When we were down two or three runs, we didn’t have enough of a threat in the lineup. We feel Carlos will bring that.”
The Padres hit the fewest homers in the majors (91), had the lowest batting average in the NL (.237) and had the second-highest strikeout total in the majors (1,320). They scored only 593 runs, which marked the second-lowest in the NL last season.
Quentin attended grade school in suburban Chula Vista and was a three-sport standout at University of San Diego High. He was chosen San Diego’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2000.
He was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award during his last college season in 2003.