When Tony Gwynn retired after the 2001 season, he handed the dean of the Padres torch to closer Trevor Hoffman. Together they cover more than a quarter-century of baseball in San Diego, but that legacy will end in 2009. The Padres withdrew their contract offer to Hoffman today, meaning baseball's all-time saves leader will be pitching elsewhere next summer.
Padres GM Kevin Towers faxed word of the team's decision to Hoffman's agent, an unceremonious end to a 16-year relationship between player and team. All but two of Hoffman's 554 career saves came after the Friars acquired him for Gary Sheffield in 1993, and his spectacular 1998 season is a big reason why the team advanced to the World Series.
The move fits in with the general cost-cutting strategy employed by San Diego this offseason. Jake Peavy's departure will come any day now and Brian Giles is being shopped aggressively as the team tries to pare down its payroll and rebuild after a dismal 2008 season. Heath Bell will likely take over as closer.
Hoffman, who turned 41 in October, had 30 saves and a 3.77 ERA last season. His age and those so-so stats will probably limit his suitors, but look for Cleveland to show some interest. GM Mark Shapiroindicated he'd talk to Hoffman if he became a free agent and the Tribe wanted Hoffman in 2004 before he re-signed with the Padres.