© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
01/09/09 10:08 AM EST
Hoffman: 'It was time to move on'
All-time saves leader says Milwaukee was best fit for him
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Trevor Hoffman, who agreed to sign with the Brewers on Thursday, told MLB.com in a telephone interview on Thursday that it was time to move on from San Diego and that Milwaukee seemed to be a better fit than Los Angeles. Both the Brewers and Dodgers offered him contracts this week. Speaking late Thursday night from his home in Rancho Santa Fe, which is in North County, San Diego, Hoffman said it had been a rough day for him in the city where he played nearly 16 seasons for the Padres. "I'm getting through it," said Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 554 saves. "It hasn't been real pretty around here, but I'm excited about Milwaukee. They seem excited, which is kind of cool. I had never spoken with [Brewers general manager] Doug Melvin before. He seems like a pretty solid guy. "I just talked to [new manager Ken Macha] briefly. He's a Pittsburgh guy so you know he's going to be blue collar. He's excited about his club and getting the opportunity to manage another good club." 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. There is no option for a second year, which Hoffman said is fine with him. "I thought better of it," he said about the option, which was offered. "Let's wait and see if we like it there. If I pitch well and earn what I'm capable of, the Brewers will be happy and it will be a moot point." In any event, it gives Hoffman a chance to earn the same $7.5 million he made from the Padres this past season, the last year of his three-year, $21 million contract. The final offer for 2009 made by the Padres in early November was for a straight $4 million, no incentives. That was taken off the table before Hoffman could accept or reject it, forcing the inevitable break. Hoffman said that the concerted interest from the Brewers is why he picked them over the Dodgers, who offered contracts to Hoffman, Dennys Reyes and Guillermo Mota at the same time. None of the three have accepted at this point. "The offers were pretty similar," Hoffman said. "The fact that Milwaukee was so bullish made a difference -- the general manager calling, the manager calling, getting to talk to the trainer. The excitement they showed for me possibly being there was the biggest factor. They stayed pretty firm. They kept coming. If you're going to leave your house, it doesn't matter whether you're an hour drive up the road or five hours away by plane. You're still not going to be home very much." Then there were the optics of Hoffman jumping from the Padres to the arch-rival Dodgers, with the two teams playing each other 18 times a year. "Yeah, that would've been a tough pill for everybody to swallow," he said with a laugh. "But the fact is, because my relationship with the Padres was severed without any desire on my part for it to happen, I had to look at all options. Had the Dodgers wanted to pursue it a little harder, then it might have happened. In Milwaukee, I thought it was definitely a firm commitment on their end." Hoffman acknowledged that he was caught in the flux of the Padres ownership situation and that it was bad timing for him to become a free agent. The Padres are downsizing their player payroll about $30 million from this past season's $72 million. And majority owner John Moores has just announced that he is bringing in Diamondbacks principal owner Jeff Moorad at least as a partner in the beginning with the intent to eventually sell him the club. That deal is currently being organized and may come to fruition by the start of Spring Training. That means next offseason, when Hoffman is a free agent again, the club's finances might be different. But at this point, Hoffman said he can't conceive of going back. "I just can't see that," he said. "I think once Heath Bell gets settled into the closer's role, they'll be comfortable with that. They could have handled my situation a lot better. There could have been a meeting of the minds. They could've said they were just going younger, which is their right. Really, we all could have handled it a lot better. We could have walked away feeling a lot more respect for each other. I just don't think a deal there was to be had. And I'm fine with it. I just think it was time to move on. "Now there's just the backlash that I took the money and ran. [People] are having a lot of fun with it right now. It's not real pretty. I'm getting a lot of calls. But it was fun. It was a good run. Shoot, 16 years, I can't squawk about it. Not many players get to stay with a club for 16 years. I was pretty lucky."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.