MILWAUKEE – Crank up the AC/DC, Milwaukee: The Brewers have landed career saves leader Trevor Hoffman, solving a shaky closer situation that could have gone into spring training with no clear-cut favorite.
This is a March 23, 2008 file photo showing San Diego Padres' Trevor Hoffman during a spring training baseball game in Peoria, Ariz. Career saves leader Trevor Hoffman closed his deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press the sides reached agreement Thursday Jan. 8, 2009 on a $6 million, one-year contract. The 41-year-old Hoffman had pitched for the San Diego Padres since 1993, but the team recently withdrew its offer for next season.
(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Hoffman's agent, Rick Thurman, credited Milwaukee for being "diligent and aggressive" in its pursuit of Hoffman after Brewers players called to recruit him.
"A number of friends who will now be teammates called and let him know that Milwaukee was a great place to play and live in," Thurman said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "At the end of the day, that made a big difference. It made a huge difference the last 16 years in San Diego. That's why he always stayed there instead of opting to go elsewhere for more money. He now looks forward to a new beginning and a new era in Milwaukee."
Hoffman agreed to a one-year contract worth $6 million on Thursday, a deal that hadn't yet been announced. He can make an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses, based on games finished.
The 41-year-old right-hander had pitched for the Padres since 1993, becoming the face of the franchise after Tony Gwynn retired. Hoffman converted 30 of 34 chances last season, increasing his saves record to 554.
Hoffman became a free agent but still hoped to hear the gongs of his trademark warmup song — AC/DC's "Hells Bells" — in San Diego for the rest of his career. Contract talks with the Padres soured, however, and the team pulled its offer of $4 million for 2009 with a club option for $4 million in 2010.
Hoffman could have stayed relatively close to home, as the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers showed considerable interest. But he instead picked the Brewers, giving the team a solid solution to one of its biggest question marks heading into 2009.
Now, Hoffman will be reunited with former San Diego teammate Mike Cameron, who played for the Padres in 2006 and 2007.
Milwaukee managed to get by with reliever Salomon Torres after Eric Gagne faltered in the closer role last season. Torres emerged to lead the team with 28 saves, and Milwaukee went on to win the NL wild card — its first playoff appearance since 1982.
Milwaukee was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Philadelphia.
Torres then retired and Gagne, who recovered to perform fairly well in a setup role in the final weeks of the season, filed for free agency.
The departures made bolstering the bullpen a major need for new manager Ken Macha and the Brewers this winter. Milwaukee recently signed reliever Jorge Julio and appeared ready to take a look at pitchers already on the roster to fill the closer's role, but kept looking for help.
The move also should boost the morale of Brewers fans after the team made an effort to re-sign ace starter CC Sabathia — only to be outbid by the New York Yankees.
Hoffman was 3-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 48 games last season. Relying on a wicked changeup, he has saved at least 30 games in 13 seasons — another major league record. But San Diego finished last in the NL West last season, 21 games behind the Dodgers.
AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker and AP Sports Writer John Nadel contributed to this report.