By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks have agreed to a $40 million, four-year contract with Martin Prado just a week after acquiring the former All-Star infielder in the trade that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta.
Prado made the All-Star team as the Braves’ second baseman in 2010 but is slated to play at third base for the Diamondbacks.
The 29-year-old infielder, who will play for Venezuela in this year’s World Baseball Classic, is a career .295 hitter. Arizona sent two-time All-Star Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson to the Braves for Prado, right-hander Randall Delgado and three minor leaguers.
Prado said in a conference call on Thursday that the trade took him by surprise.
But, after a week, he said, “Now I see everything more clear, and I’m happy to be aboard with the Arizona Diamondbacks.”
Upton had three years left on a contract owing him $38.5 million so the Prado deal is not a significant increase to the Diamondbacks’ payroll. Managing partner Ken Kendrick said last week that he expects the payroll to be somewhere above $90 million for the coming season.
Prado will earn $7 million this season, then $11 million each of the following three years. He could have gone through arbitration and become a free agent after this season, perhaps getting a more lucrative deal.
“Since I got to the big leagues I’ve been looking to be more secure,” he said, “to be in the right spot and not have to worry about going through free agency. The way I am right now, I’m happy. I’m going to play more relaxed. I think I needed it.”
General manager Kevin Towers, who departed for an African vacation shortly after the Upton trade was completed a week ago, said that adding a contact hitter in Prado should help the team be less reliant on the home run.
Prado prides himself on being able to do “the little things” to make a team successful.
“You know that in the National League, more often you can play the game and do the little things right, you can take advantage of the other team,” he said. “That’s my thing, just trying to make that as a routine because in small games, that can make a difference, and one game can make a difference at the end of the year.”
He looks forward to playing for manager Kirk Gibson.
“What I heard is he’s an aggressive guy,” Prado said. “He likes the little things. He likes to move the runner, and I like that, man. He understands. He played the game a long time. He played the right way, and he likes those guys.”
He is accustomed to filling the No. 2 spot in the batting order his whole career, a spot that Aaron Hill filled with great success for Arizona last season. He said he’s open to batting somewhere else in the order.
“I’ve been in the second hole pretty much all my career. I can put the ball in play, I can hit the ball to right field. That’s more me,” he said, “but I can adjust myself to any situation in the game.”
Prado hit .301 last season with 42 doubles, 10 home runs and 70 RBIs in 156 games. He led the National League with 60 multi-hit games and was fourth in hits and fifth in doubles. He played several positions, primarily left field but also third base, second base, first base and shortstop. He has never played an entire season at third base and knows it will be a challenge.
“I think the challenge is the reaction because there are a lot of hitters in the National League that actually hit the ball so hard,” he said. “But I’m working on it, to be as comfortable as I can be at third base. I know I’ve got (third base coach) Matt Williams on the team and he was one of the best third basemen back then and I’ve got to take advantage of that as much as I can.”
Prado was asked about the perception around baseball that the Diamondbacks didn’t get enough for Upton.
“You know, I think sometimes people have different opinions,” he said. “I feel like both teams took advantage of the trade. People don’t see that right now because Justin Upton is a superstar-caliber guy.”
But Prado said that, besides himself, there is a lot of young talent coming to Arizona in the deal.
“Maybe in a couple years,” he said, “people will think in a different way.”
Pitchers and catchers report to the Diamondbacks’ Scottsdale spring training facility on Feb. 11, with all players reporting three days later.