1992 was a big year for MLB as they welcomed the Florida Marlins, now known as the Miami Marlins, to the league. The expansion draft would take part in the same time period and with that, the Marlins would select future HOFer and Padres legend, Trevor Hoffman.
Making The Transition
Prior to his selection by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1989 MLB Draft, Hoffman had been in talks with their scout, Jeff Barton, who suggested he try his hand at pitcher or catcher. Of course, any young player will do whatever it takes to elevate their career and so he began alternating between starter and reliever. In two seasons in the minor leagues, he posted a 2.90 ERA with 169 strikeouts in 142 innings while pitching for Single-A Cedar Rapids, Double-A Chattanooga, and Triple-A Nashville. Oh yeah, and his fastball topped off at 95 mph while he was in the midst of his ascension to greatness.
A guy that could have been a staple for this team and changed their bullpen for the better, didn’t seem to catch the eye of executives. He was eventually left unprotected by the club and so the Florida Marlins made the choice to select him eighth overall during the 1992 expansion draft. While spending his time in Florida, he observed former closer Brian Harvey and his balanced demeanor while taking the mound. In 29 appearances with the Marlins, Hoffman earned only two saves until his eventual midseason trade to the San Diego Padres.
Florida’s return on investment was huge at the time considering their acquisition of pitcher Rich Rodriguez and 1992 NL batting title winner, Gary Sheffield, from San Diego was like getting away with murder. Many Padres fans were left upset and angry at the front office for making such a devastating trade for an unknown rookie reliever and two minor league prospects. Even so, former Padres GM Randy Smith said, “The only way to acquire quality players is to give up quality”, which showed his willingness to watch the trade pay off. Hoffman was also born in Bellflower, California which was only about two hours away from Petco Park thus making the trade that much more exciting for this native.
During his fifteen-year career with the Padres, Hoffman became the franchise leader in most career saves (552), most saves in a single season (53), most consecutive save opportunities converted (41), most career games pitched (902), most career strikeouts per innings (9.72), and had the lowest career batting average against (.211). Adding to this, he also produced seven All-Star awards between the 1998-2006 MLB seasons which only cemented his status as the face of the franchise after Tony Gwynn. What looked like a further doomed franchise turned out to be a worthwhile trade for this organization.
Hoffman’s final year in the MLB was spent with the Milwaukee Brewers where he recorded the 600th save of his career which put him number one in all-time saves. This record was short-lived, however, as Mariano Rivera would go on to set the bar even higher with his career and MLB’s best 652 saves all-time. Regardless, the trade that saw this monster of a reliever get booed in his first few outings with San Diego turned out to be a tale of praise and excitement when he took the bump.
On January 11, 2011, Hoffman decided to call it a career and hang up his cleats for the final time after a tough battle with tendonitis. He was offered the chance to sign a one-day contract as a Padre to officially retire with them but said that he “did not believe that was the right way”. He was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame in 2018 after sixteen years in MLB split between four teams.
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