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Closing in on the Padres

Updated: November 24, 2010, 11:10 AM ET
By Buster Olney

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.

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.

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