Not that this isn’t an idea that hasn’t already been kicked around for months, but Yahoo’s Tim Brown says that the Dodgers have actually acted upon it…
Hoffman, the all-time saves leader, also has discussed a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, and is likely to have received a formal offer from them, as well.
Discarded by the San Diego Padres, Hoffman is thought to prefer Southern California, having spent 15 ½ of his 16 big-league seasons in San Diego.
Now, let me say this: I don’t believe the Dodgers need a closer, at least not in the sense that they need a starting pitcher or needed to get rid of Andruw Jones. Despite the likely losses of Joe Beimel & Takashi Saito and the already-gone Chan Ho Park, the Dodgers still return their top three relievers in terms of WXRL – Cory Wade, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Jonathan Broxton. Not only that, Ramon Troncoso (who was adequate in his time up last year) is tearing up winter ball (2.25 ERA, 11/1 K/BB in 16 innings) and youngsters Scott Elbert and James McDonald, who both showed flashes in their limited time in the bigs in 2008, are each likely to contribute. Yeah, losing Saito hurts, but no one knows if he’s healthy anyway, and the club was successful without him for most of last year as it was. The point is, the Dodgers pen is strong, and despite the unfounded worry over Broxton as the closer, doesn’t require a major upgrade.
That said, make no mistake – even though closer isn’t a huge need in my book, it’s never a bad idea to upgrade the bullpen if the price and situation is right. Trevor Hoffman might be 41 years old, and he might be coming off his highest ERA since 1995, but he’s still got it. In yet another example of why ERA isn’t always a foolproof method of evaluation, note that despite his ERA jumping nearly a full run between 2007-08 to 3.88, his WHIP decreased markedly (his 3rd lowest in the last 8 years, and actually lower than his career average) and his K rate jumped back up to one per inning. Even better, he got stronger as the season went on, which is always a worry for old players. After a lousy first half (5.08 ERA) he was dominant after the break, allowing just 10 hits in 17 innings for a 1.59 ERA. Oddly enough, unlike every other San Diego pitcher ever, he was much more successful away from PetCo Park.
As I said, I think the bullpen would be just fine without Hoffman, and I have confidence that Broxton can get the job done. But I’d be more than happy to add Hoffman and push everyone back. Then you’ve got Broxton being the best setup man in the league, and Wade & Kuo being a deadly 1-2 punch that you can insert whenever you need. How great does that top 4 sound, and we haven’t even gotten to Troncoso, Elbert & McDonald yet?
So let’s get this done. There’s no word on whether Milwaukee’s offer is superior, but unless they’re not even close, it shouldn’t matter. Hoffman’s a SoCal native, even before pitching for San Diego, and has stated he’d prefer to stay near home. Add in that his brother Glenn is a former Dodger player and coach, and that the Dodgers are much better positioned to compete in the weak NL West than the Brewers (sans Sabathia and Sheets) are against the Cubs in the Central, and there’s no downside here. Besides, throwing a few more dollars at Hoffman would save the club money in arbitration hearings with Broxton, because set-up men never get paid as much as closers with fancy save totals, regardless of how good they are. In addition, just like how we enjoyed having Greg Maddux around for our young starters, perhaps Hoffman could teach Broxton that devastating changeup, which would make him completely unstoppable.
Besides, how great would it be to kick Padre fans while they’re down by taking the second best player in team history away from them?
***In other news, let’s thank the New York Yankees for taking out our trash. Not only did they sign Jason Johnson, who was unlikely to return anyway, they saved us from the looming spector of Angel Berroa 2: Electric Boogaloo by signing him too. Guys, why stop there? Mark Sweeney and Pablo Ozuna are still out there lurking, and I’d love to know they’re contractually barred from resigning with the Blue.