Hoffman finalizes deal with Brewers
All-time saves leader agrees to one-year, $6 million pact plus incentives
MILWAUKEE -- "Hells Bells" will toll this season at Miller Park.Trevor Hoffman, Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader who has entered games to AC/DC's rock anthem for more than a decade, formally agreed on Tuesday to leave his West coast roots for a one-year contract with the Brewers. "The people in Milwaukee are going to go nuts for this guy," said Brewers catcher Jason Kendall, a longtime friend of Hoffman's. "You've got 'Hells Bells' in the ninth inning when he comes in the game, and you've got the best closer in the world. I think it's a perfect fit." Terms of Hoffman's deal -- a $6 million base salary in 2009 plus up to $1.5 million in incentives based on games finished between 38 and 52 -- were set last Thursday, but the Brewers delayed their official announcement for several days because Hoffman needed to pass a physical. "We are very excited to have Trevor wearing a Brewers uniform," Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said. "He brings to our club the closer we need for us to continue our pursuit of a World Series. His experience, work ethic, involvement with the fans and community and respect from his peers have made him one of the best closers in the history of the game and a future Hall of Famer." The Brewers pushed hard last week to outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers for Hoffman, 41, a right-handed, changeup specialist and San Diego Padres icon. He has 554 career saves, 72 more than runner-up Mariano Rivera, is a six-time National League All-Star and twice finished as runner-up in NL Cy Young Award balloting. "It has been a privilege watching Trevor earn 552 saves in a Padres uniform," San Diego chairman John Moores said. "He has had an extraordinary career in San Diego, and we wish him well on his journey to the Hall of Fame." Melvin and new field manager Ken Macha teamed up to convince Hoffman over the past week to forego his preference for a California team. He was born near Anaheim and now lives just north of San Diego, where he has pitched for the Padres since 1993. Melvin faxed a term sheet late Wednesday night, considered the final hurdle to a deal, and Hoffman signed off on it Thursday morning. "We've come a long way as an organization to become involved in these things," Melvin said. "I don't think people always understand that in free agency there are times it's about the money and times it's about where they want to play. Most of these players have all earned enough money to have some freedom to determine what they want to do." Hoffman decided on Milwaukee, where the Brewers needed a steady closer to replace Salomon Torres after he retired following the season. The Brewers also showed some interest in Kerry Wood, who instead signed with the Indians, and Brian Fuentes, who picked his home-state Angels, before focusing on Hoffman and pursuing his services aggressively. In picking Milwaukee, Hoffman passed on the Dodgers, who made a similar offer. Los Angeles was seeking to replace closer Takashi Saito, whom they non-tendered after the season, but the presence of flamethrower Jonathan Broxton may have complicated talks with Hoffman. Broxton notched 14 saves last season while Saito was injured.
Hoffman will be the unquestioned closer in Milwaukee. With the departures of Torres and free agent Eric Gagne, the Brewers' only other experienced option to close would have been offseason pickup Jorge Julio.Hoffman's decision to sign with the Brewers formally ended ties with the Padres, who traded for Hoffman midway through their 1993 "fire sale" season and made him the closer the following year. Hoffman had 30 saves in 34 chances in 2008, his 16th in San Diego, but his 3.77 ERA was his highest since 1995, the first season Hoffman used his changeup extensively. "Trevor has meant a lot to this organization and to the San Diego community over the last 16 years," said Padres executive vice president/general manager Kevin Towers. "We are going to miss hearing 'Hells Bells' and seeing Number 51 walk through that center-field gate. He has been a constant professional both on and off the field and we wish him the best of luck as he continues his Hall of Fame career." Hoffman was a Type A free agent, but he will not cost the Brewers a first-round Draft pick in 2009 because the Padres did not offer him arbitration. Had he been extended such an offer and accepted, Hoffman would have been due a raise from his $7.5 million salary in 2008. That didn't work for the Padres, who are looking to cut payroll. He left San Diego amid some rancor after the Padres withdrew a $4 million offer. The offers from both the Brewers and the Dodgers were both higher than $4 million, according to Hoffman's agent, Rick Thurman. "I've known that guy for years and I know he still has something left in the tank," Kendall said. "That's a guy who knows what to do to be successful, and he works hard to keep his body in shape. Not many people can pitch that long and have that much success. "You're talking about the best closer who ever played the game," Kendall said. "I know some people debate that, but come on. Look at the numbers. He's got more saves than any person in the history of the game. He's the best that ever toed the rubber." Pitching at Miller Park, Hoffman will be returning to the scene of one of his most forgettable performances. The Padres were one strike away from a postseason berth on Sept. 29, 2007, when Brewers pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr., the son of the Padres legend, laced one of Hoffman's changeups for a run-scoring triple that cost Hoffman the save and San Diego's third successive postseason berth. The Padres went on to lose that game in the 10th inning, then lost again in Milwaukee the following afternoon to set up a one-game tiebreaker with the Colorado Rockies for the National League Wild Card. The Padres dropped that game, too, this time in 13 innings with Hoffman suffering another blown save.