Closing in on the Padres 

November, 24, 2010

The cap on Trevor Hoffman's Hall of Fame plaque will bear the logo of the San Diego Padres, regardless of what happens in the years ahead. Hoffman has pitched 18 years in the majors and in 16 of those he played in a Padres uniform, so his ugly split with the team after the 2008 season will never change the fact that we will always think of Hoffman as a Padre.

Getty ImagesBell will almost surely be elsewhere by the trade deadline.
And it's possible that Hoffman could repair his relationship with the Padres; in fact, some folks within baseball are convinced that Hoffman will return to San Diego next season. "It fits," said one official. "It makes all the sense in the world. He goes back and finishes his career as a Padre."

The question is whether it will be as a closer or a setup man. The Padres' Heath Bell was arguably the best closer in the National League last season, racking up 47 saves and posting a 1.93 ERA. But Bell will be eligible for free agency after next season, at a time when the San Diego payroll is the lowest in the major leagues, and the expectation among general managers is that the Padres will trade Bell between now and the July 31 trade deadline, in an effort to recoup his value.

Hoffman got off to a terrible start for the Brewers last season and lost his job as the Milwaukee closer. But he pitched better in the second half, posting a 2.66 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .208 batting average, and achieved his 600th career save. He is open to the idea of another season.

Whenever Bell is traded, the Padres could install Hoffman as the closer, if they sign him. And if Hoffman -- who is 43 years old -- has another poor year, San Diego has other alternatives, with Luke Gregerson and Mike Adams.

Padres owner Jeff Moorad is known to be very cognizant of public relations, of fostering good feelings. And patching the team's relationship with Hoffman by bringing him back could be a good thing for the franchise, in the big picture.

Hoffman left the Brewers with class, granting them a gift as he walked away.

Around the league

• Cuba might lift restrictions on its players -- but still won't let them sign in the big leagues, Uziel Gomez and Jorge Embro write.

<p.• In the aftermath of the news that the Tigers have agreed to terms with Victor Martinez, a rival executive mused over their roster. "It's going to be a pain in the [rear] to play them," he said. "They've got a lot of power arms -- in their bullpen, in their rotation. They may have overpaid to get [Joaquin] Benoit, but look at the arms they've got. Martinez gives them more depth in their lineup, to support [Miguel] Cabrera. That's a dangerous team."

Without a doubt. Justin Verlander is one of the 10 best pitchers in the majors, Rick Porcello learned how to make adjustments in his short stint in the minors last summer and was a different pitcher in the second half, and Max Scherzer had a good year. Jim Leyland's bullpen should be stacked. The only question is whether GM Dave Dombrowski can rebuild the lineup around Cabrera, and he's got a lot of cash to play with. They continue to be viewed as serious players in the bidding for outfielders, as well.

• The Yankees have made it clear that they intend to pay Derek Jeter more than what they perceive his value to be as a player on the open market, and not what his brand is worth, and as some executives and agents noted yesterday, Jeter doesn't appear to have a lot of leverage in his situation. "He needs the Yankees more than the Yankees need him," said one NL official, "because he's not an elite player anymore."

Jeter's leverage has to be built on interest from other clubs. The Giants haven't filled their shortstop hole, and neither have the Cincinnati Reds.

But is Jeter willing to walk away from his lifelong dream of being the shortstop of the Yankees? Would anybody actually offer him more than the $15 million salary that the Yankees are willing to pay him?

Brian Cashman is open in inviting Jeter to solicit other offers, to assess his own market value for himself. Hank Steinbrenner says the Yankees have made players very, very rich.

Only Hal Steinbrenner can fix this mess, writes Mike Lupica.


• The Twins offered arbitration to three players, Joe Christensen writes.

• As expected, the Phillies offered Jayson Werth arbitration.

• The White Sox offered arbitration to two players, but not to A.J. Pierzynski, writes Joe Cowley.

• The Red Sox did not offer Jason Varitek arbitration, but they'd like to keep him.

• The Rays set themselves up to get a lot of draft picks.

• The D-backs offered arbitration to two players.

• The Padres offered arbitration to three guys, writes Bill Center.


Josh Hamilton won the AL MVP Award, as expected. From Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats & Information: Hamilton is the fifth American League player in the last 80 seasons with a batting average of .350 or better, at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and 40 doubles. The list: