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Tag:Trevor Hoffman
Posted on: November 25, 2008 6:52 pm
 

Free agency: Calm before the storm?

If you're wondering why there continues to be a whole lot of talk and little action on baseball's Hot Stove front this week, circle Dec. 1 on your calendar.

That's the deadline for clubs offering salary arbitration to any of their own free agents.

Most importantly, of course is this: If arbitration is offered, the signing team must compensate the player's old team with a draft pick. Now that might not be of concern to clubs chasing the biggest free-agent prizes this winter -- Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia, et. al. -- it definitely comes into play with the next-tier guys.

Consequently, many clubs are in wait mode until after Monday. Maybe San Francisco is interested in shortstop Edgar Renteria if Rafael Furcal signs elsewhere, but the Giants surely would wait until after Monday to see whether Detroit offers him arbitration (which the Tigers aren't expected to do).

And maybe Cleveland will make an offer to a free-agent closer -- Trevor Hoffman? Kerry Wood? -- but from where the Indians sit right now, in a market saturated with closers, it makes a whole lot more sense for them to wait and see who might be available that wouldn't cost them a draft pick.

While Dec. 1 is the date by which clubs must offer their free agents salary arbitration or cut bait with them for good, the players have until Dec. 7 to decide whether or not to accept.

Which is why a couple of executives with whom I've spoken this week said they think the winter meetings -- which begin Dec. 8 in Las Vegas -- will be where the action is this year.

***

The economy continues to be on the minds of front-office executives and may wind up affecting this winter's player market more than we thought.

"It's pretty treacherous for us," says Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro, whose needs include a closer and an infielder (second or third base or shortstop). "The economic situation is a real factor here. We're seeing it in season-ticket renewals. Some of our city issues pre-date the international and national economic issues, and those are amplifying our city issues.

"It's a challenge. We're trying to get our arms around it and see how it affects our revenues."

In Toronto, meanwhile, the Blue Jays already are resigned to not filling every item on their winter wish list (starting pitching, big bat in the middle of the lineup).

"The Canadian dollar isn't as strong, and we're taking a hit with the United States' dollar with the exchange rate," Blue Jays GM J.P. RIcciardi says. "The world in general is being affected by this, and to stick our head in the sand and say it's not affecting us is crazy.

"We're talking about people's discretionary spending, and they might not spend it."

Things have changed in Toronto, even from season's end to now.

"What we thought at the end of the season and what we think now is different," Ricciardi said.

***

Random other items:

-- The Los Angeles Angels' sudden turn toward CC Sabathia, explained here by colleague Danny Knobler, should really rattle the Yankees' cage. Even with Milwaukee offering five years and $100 million, until the Angels decided to get so aggressive, most executives with whom I've spoken figured the ace would sign with the Yankees.

"I've heard talk of this guy wanting to do this and do that, but you know what? They all follow the money," one National League executive said. "It's just the facts of life."

"I don't think the Yankees will allow him to go anywhere else," one AL GM said, referring to the enormous contract the Yankees reportedly have offered. "Wherever he goes, it's going to have to be to someone who has a giant payroll and can absorb it if he gets hurt."

The Yankees qualify in that department. So, too, do the Angels.

-- Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi says the Blue Jays don't have an offer out to pitcher A.J. Burnett right now and have not spoken with agent Derek Braunauer about the length of a potential deal.

-- One National League executive on pitcher Jeremy Affeldt's two-year, $8-million deal with San Francisco: "I think Affeldt might be the smartest free agent out there. He had a deal on the table and said, 'Screw it, I'm taking it.'"

-- Clubs looking for infield help are not seeing any quick fixes in a free-agent market that includes Rafael Furcal (the most sought-after, by far), Orlando Hudson, Ray Durham, Edgar Renteria, Orlando Cabrera, Casey Blake and Joe Crede. Hudson and Crede are coming off of injuries, Blake and Durham are into their upper-30s and Renteria is coming off of a miserable season in Detroit during which scouts were alarmed at both his lack of defensive range and his lack of arm. "Extremely thin market," one GM says. "A lot of it is flawed."

-- Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland continue to be the most aggressive suitors for Casey Blake, though his agent, Jim McDowell, did say Tuesday that there is a small group of four or five other clubs that have "stayed close." "I don't expect anything to happen this week," McDowell said. "We've had good discussions with several teams." Blake's versatility -- he can play the outfield and first base in addition to third, and the Dodgers even used him at second base in a playoff game this fall -- may wind up being his strongest selling point.

Posted on: November 11, 2008 6:33 pm
 

Mistreating Trevor Hoffman in San Diego

You can argue the merits of San Diego's apparent decision to bid farewell to a closer in the twilight of his career.

You cannot argue that icon Trevor Hoffman's request to meet with owner John Moores was anything but reasonable and should have been granted, and that the Padres are utterly ham-handed in showing the closer the door.

But then, that's the way this amateur-hour mess of a club is doing business these days as an unaccountable, absentee owner hides in the shadows while his messy divorce proceeds.

If the best Moores can do for a franchise icon is remain invisible behind club president Sandy Alderson as a one-year, $4 million contract is yanked from the table and Hoffman's request to meet with the owner is rebuffed, then he should sell the franchise sooner rather than later.

Or turn it over to his wife, Becky, in the divorce settlement.

Hoffman, baseball's all-time saves leader, earned $7 million last year while saving 30 games for a club that won only 63.

Following that 99-loss debacle in '08, the Padres won't contend in '09, either. So it's a reasonable question to ask what the point is in worrying about who's pitching the ninth innings, anyway. Let alone whether Hoffman, at 41, will be worth the multi-millions he'd be paid.

While the one-year, $4-million, incentive-based contract that was pulled wasn't exactly a slap in the face to Hoffman, the salary cut was a clear indication that the Padres weren't exactly viewing him as a must-have commodity.

From a purely baseball perspective, hey, that's show biz.

The problem here, however, is that Hoffman is a civic icon who, along with Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, is one of the two most important Padres in club history.

Beyond that, as the club's marketing department has leaned on him time and time again through both good seasons and bad, Hoffman has never grumbled. He's done whatever's been asked to help promote the club and baseball in San Diego -- hell, in China, too, for that matter. He was one of the most public faces last spring in the Padres-Dodgers promotional trip to that country. He's never been anything less than friendly, courteous, cooperative and stand-up.

Now, should that earn him a lifetime scholarship in Padre-ville?

No. In the end, with all players, you remove emotion and make baseball decisions. And if this is Hoffman's time to go, so be it. Nobody can play forever, no matter if he's still a very young 41. Lord knows, there was enough chirping on postgame radio shows every time he blew a save. Not everybody who follows the Padres will be sorry to see him go.

However. There is a way to do things, and this wasn't it.

It is not an owner's obligation to meet with every player who requests an audience.

But given what Hoffman has meant over the past 16 seasons in San Diego, the least Moores could do was haul his butt out of hiding to meet with Hoffman.

Especially since Hoffman's ascent after San Diego acquired him from Cincinnati during the Padres' Fire Sale of 1993 coincided with the return of the Padres after Moores rescued from the inept clutches of former owner Tom Werner.

If anybody knows Hoffman's importance, it should be Moores.

Now, maybe the conversation doesn't go how Hoffman wants it to go. Maybe the owner's message is simply, "Trevor, look. We're reducing payroll, and our baseball people say that your game has slipped too much and we're just not going to re-sign you. Thanks for everything, and you'll always have a place in this organization."

Maybe that's the message, and if it is, that's fine. Nobody plays forever. Some players, sad as it is, must be told when to go.

But this isn't the way to do it.

And the fact that the club has chosen this path says far more about the deterioration of Moores as an owner and as a human being than it does about the deterioration of Hoffman's skills.

 
 
 
 
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