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Hoffman to decline Brewers' arbitration offer

Hoffman to decline Brewers' arbitration offer

MILWAUKEE -- In a surprise move, the Brewers offered salary 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.

The Brewers and Hoffman struck a gentlemen's agreement ahead of time whereby Hoffman will decline the offer, according to a baseball source. Because he was rated a Type B free agent by the Elias Sports Bureau, the move does not at all affect his negotiations with other teams.

"It's the right thing to do," the source said.

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An arbitration primer is in order:

Hoffman was the only Brewers free agent who qualified for compensation. Under the rules, if a Type B 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 that saw the Brewers identify 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 an 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 he 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 became a free agent after the World Series when the Brewers declined his $7.5 million option for 2011, opting instead to pay a $750,000 buyout.

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, but is still weighing his options for next season and might not pitch at all.

The Brewers' other free agents -- Dave Bush, Chris Capuano, Craig Counsell, Doug Davis and Gregg Zaun -- did not qualify for Draft compensation under the Elias system.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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