UPDATE at 6:20 p.m. CT: The Brewers indeed had a gentlemen’s agreement agreement with Hoffman to decline the arbitration offer, according to a source who would know. It doesn’t hurt him at all in negotiating with other clubs, and the Brewers get an extra Draft pick between the first and second rounds if he signs with another team before the Draft. “It’s the right thing to do,” the source said.
In a surprise move, the Brewers offered arbitration to free agent reliever Trevor Hoffman on Tuesday, positioning the team to receive a compensatory pick in next year’s Draft should Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader sign elsewhere for 2011.
Hoffman was rated a Type B free agent by the Elias Sports Bureau, the only Brewers free agent who qualified for compensation. Under the rules, if such a player is offered arbitration, declines the offer and then signs with a new team, his former team receives an extra pick between the first and second rounds of the subsequent First-Year Player Draft.
If a player accepts the offer, he is considered signed for the subsequent season and his salary is determined through arbitration. Per the rules, his salary cannot be cut by more than 20 percent.
Hoffman earned more than $7 million during a disappointing 2010 season in which the Brewers identified a number of younger, cheaper bullpen options, and he turned 43 in October, factors that led most observers to believe that the Brewers would not extend an arbitration offer. But teams occasionally strike deals in which compensation-eligible players agree ahead of time to decline the offer. For Type B players, there’s no negative effect because, unlike Type A free agents, their new team is not required to forfeit a Draft pick.
The Yankees and fellow Type B player Javier Vazquez reportedly made such a gentlemen’s agreement this week by which Vazquez, who earned $11.5 million in 2010, agreed to decline an arbitration offer.
Hoffman, the all-time leader with 601 saves, notched 37 saves for the Brewers in 2009 and made the National League All-Star team, but lost Milwaukee’s closer role in May after suffering five blown saves in his first 10 chances of 2010. He rebounded in the second half and reached the 600-save milestone on Sept. 7 at Miller Park but said later that month he expected to depart via free agency. The Brewers have handed closer duties to right-hander John Axford, who went 24-for-27 in save chances as Hoffman’s replacement.
Hoffman’s agent is Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, the same firm that represents Axford.
Hoffman lives in San Diego and likely will look for a West Coast team willing to offer at least a chance to close games. He expressed interest in the D-backs to MLB.com earlier this month.
The Brewers’ other free agents — Dave Bush, Chris Capuano, Craig Counsell, Doug Davis and Gregg Zaun — did not qualify for Draft compensation under an Elias system that takes into account a player’s statistics over the previous two seasons.