Brewers sign All-Time Saves Leader Hoffman

Lance LeQueAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2009

(quotes courtesy

The Brewers have agreed to terms with free-agent closer Trevor Hoffman, acquiring the former Padres right-hander who is the all-time leader with 554 saves.

Hoffman will earn a $6 million base salary in 2009 with up to $1.5 million in incentives based on games finished, beginning with No. 38 and ending with 52, has learned. There is no option for a second year. Hoffman earned $7.5 million for the Padres this past season, the last year of his three-year, $21 million contract.

"I'm excited about a new beginning in Milwaukee," Hoffman said. "The Brewers were aggressive in pursuing me and that ultimately made a big difference in my decision."

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin would not talk about details of the negotiations, but said he felt good about his team's chances of signing Hoffman, who parted ways with the Padres in November after nearly 16 seasons when the club took a $4 million, one-year offer off the table.

"It's out of my hands," Melvin said. "I'm not the one to say a deal is done. The agent is."

According to Hoffman's agent, Rick Thurman, both the Brewers and the Los Angeles Dodgers had offered Hoffman a one-year contract with an option for 2010. Melvin wouldn't say whether the Brewers had to guarantee the second year of the deal to pry Hoffman, a native of Southern California, away from the West Coast.

Hoffman had been in the market since early November when the Padres took a one-year deal worth $4 million guaranteed with an option for the same money off the table, ending his 16-year tenure in San Diego.

Hoffman may have been eyeing one last run at the Padres before deciding on the Brewers, but by late afternoon San Diego majority owner John Moores said that wasn't going to happen.

"We're not getting into a bidding war with anybody over Trevor," Moores said. "It'll be strange to see him in another uniform, especially for me. But it's rare that any player spends his whole career with one organization anymore. I hope he has a great year."

For Hoffman, who is from Anaheim and now lives in North County San Diego, signing with the Dodgers would have kept him close to home. But in Los Angeles, hard-throwing right-hander Jonathan Broxton was the closer at the end of the season. He replaced the injured Takashi Saito, who has since been non-tendered, and Broxton had 14 saves.

Hoffman, 41, is intent on reaching the 600-save plateau and won't sign anywhere he's not the closer. In Milwaukee he'll be the guy after the retirement of Solomon Torres and the departure of free agent Eric Gagne after one shaky year in the Brewers' pen.

Other than free agent pick-up Jorge Julio, who has not been a full-time closer since the first half of 2007, the Brewers have no experienced in-house options.

"I gave him a compliment on his career, and his professionalism," Brewers' manager Ken Macha said when he called Hoffman. "A guy with Hoffman's experience and track record, what he's done over the years, would bring a lot of confidence to your team," Macha said. "This guy is a tremendous individual, and he could have a great influence on the young guys on our staff."

The Brewers had gotten the feeling all winter that Hoffman, a Californian who had pitched for the Padres since he was traded to San Diego by the Marlins in 1993, was cool on the idea of moving to the middle of the country. But Hoffman said after his sudden divorce from the Padres that he was willing to look at any situation.

Macha determined that Milwaukee's priority was a top-notch closer and Hoffman should be the guy.

The team showed some interest in left-hander Brian Fuentes and right-hander Kerry Wood before those pitchers signed with the Angels and Indians, respectively. Hoffman, after post-2007 season surgery to clean up his right elbow, rebounded in 2008 to convert 30 of 34 save chances for a Padres team that lost 99 games and finished dead last in the National League West.

"When we talked, he gave his analysis of the Brewers," Macha said. "He said, 'Great offense, a lot of young players and a chance to compete again for a division crown.' Things like that are attractive to him. I can't be the judge of whether the scale is tilted toward pitching in California or just winning, period. I can't give you the complete reading on that. But it is appealing to him that we are a good, young team and we are going to compete."

My Take

This is a great move for Milwaukee. Not having a proven closer for 2009 would've hurt the Brewers' chances at making it back to the postseason. Hoffman is definitely capable of leading the Crew for next season.

Now the Brewers need to sign another reliever or two, and hopefully they'll be able to pry Ben Sheets off of the free agent market.