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Old Jan 8th 2009, 10:44 am
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Brewers sign Hoffman

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have signed free-agent closer Trevor Hoffman, acquiring the former Padres right-hander who's the all-time leader with 554 saves, his agent, Rick Thurman told MLB.com in a text message on Thursday morning.
The formal announcement is expected to come from the club at noon CT.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin would not talk about details of the negotiations during his drive to the office Thursday morning, 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 Thurman, both the Brewers and 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.

Melvin skipped a Milwaukee Bucks game on Wednesday night to continue negotiations with Thurman, who was in Florida. Hoffman, meanwhile, was back in the San Diego area after returning from a Hawaiian vacation.

Melvin expected to hear back from Thurman and Hoffman on Thursday.

"He has to talk to Trevor and get the final say from the player," Melvin said. "Sometimes the player has to talk with his family to make sure he is doing the right thing. If [Hoffman] decides to come here, that's a big move for him."

On Wednesday, it was revealed that Hoffman was weighing similar offers from the Brewers and the Dodgers. Both deals were higher than the $4 million the Padres offered in early November.

The Dodgers had also offered a contract to Guillermo Mota, who played for the club from 2002 to mid-2004. In addition, Los Angeles had showed interest in Dennys Reyes and Juan Cruz.

On Tuesday, Hoffman's agent, Rick Thurman, said in a telephone interview that the Dodgers and Brewers were the leaders in the race to sign Hoffman.

"We're talking parameters of a deal with both teams," he said. "In the next 24-to-48 hours I think we'll have something done. If we don't have a deal done we'll have a pretty solid idea of where he's going. But I think we'll have a deal done."

Hoffman has been in the market since early November when the Padres took that 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.

To close the deal with Hoffman, when new Brewers manager Ken Macha learned that general manager Doug Melvin had rekindled talks with the right-hander's agent, he asked Melvin for permission to call Hoffman himself. Hoffman was vacationing with his family in Hawaii, but returned that call on Saturday.

"I gave him a compliment on his career, and his professionalism," Macha said Tuesday. "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.

Ironically, it was in Miller Park at the end of the 2007 season that Hoffman had one of the most serious meltdowns of his career in a crucial situation.

On the mound in the bottom of ninth that Sept. 29 was the guy Moores has called the Padres' best pitcher of all-time, facing the son of their best hitter of all-time, Tony Gwynn Jr., with the visiting team leading by a run, a man on second and two out.

All Hoffman needed was one strike to lock up a postseason berth for an unprecedented third consecutive year. Gwynn Jr. was looking for a fastball, but he never got one. The nasty changeup was low and on the inside corner and he dropped the barrel of his bat and in a classic case of father-son Gwynn hitting drove it on a line into the right-field corner for a triple to tie the score.

The Brewers won in extra innings and two days later Hoffman couldn't secure a one-game tiebreaker for the National League's Wild Card berth at Coors Field in Denver, either.

All that aside, 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."
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Old Jan 8th 2009, 11:45 pm
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