SAN DIEGO -- In case there was any uncertainty about the matter, Trevor Hoffman said on Monday night that he wants to return to the Padres next season and perhaps for a few more seasons after that. "Well, I think I have more than one [season left]," Hoffman told MLB.com in an exclusive interview while seated in front of his PETCO Park locker several hours before the Padres played the Dodgers on Monday. "My body feels good. My arm feels a heck of a lot better than it has the last few years. The competitive juices are still there. You can't put a number on how long. If I was 30 years old, we wouldn't even be talking about it." The open question is whether the Padres want the all-time leader with 552 saves back or will force him into free agency.
Hoffman will be 41 years old on Oct. 13 and is in the final year of his three-year contract that paid him $21 million. While the team has underperformed around him and is heading toward a last-place finish in the National League West, Hoffman still has had 28 saves in 32 opportunities, converting 16 in a row from June 4 to Aug. 27. Kevin Towers, the team's longtime general manager, said last week that he intended to talk with Hoffman about the future. According to Hoffman, that meeting took place on Saturday in Milwaukee. Hoffman said he walked away feeling very positive about the relationship, and unless something changes he expects to be back in 2009 with the Padres for his 17th Major League season. "Based on my conversation, that's what I'd gather from it," Hoffman said. "There's definite interest. They've got to wait and see what is handed down from above. The question is where the club's going more than about me. So it's all a little premature until you find out what the payroll is going to be. Nothing was going to be decided on Saturday night." John Moores, the team's principal owner, said a determination on that front won't be made until he returns from the World Series. The Padres began the season with about a $74 million player payroll. Chances are, it won't be as high in 2009. "It all depends on what we determine," said Moores, who wasn't at the game on Monday night but was reached via phone in Houston. "It depends on what we perceive over the next few years to be coming down the pike. Obviously, this year was a shock, certainly to me. We came within one out of the postseason last year, so I don't know how it could have been any more shocking." Moores has never hid his fondness for Hoffman, who had right elbow surgery this past offseason and has rebounded nicely. During Spring Training, in fact, Moores said if Hoffman produced a typical Hoffman year, "we'd be crazy not have him back." Moores was less emphatic on Monday and chose to flip the ball to his front office: Towers and Sandy Alderson, the team's chief executive. "I'm the last person in the world to talk because I can't imagine this team without Hoffman. He's been here as long as I've been here," Moores said about a player who joined the Padres midway through the 1993 season, nearly two years before he purchased the team. "To me, it's a very emotional deal. He's going to go into the Hall of Fame with a Padres cap on, which is something very special. "I suspect that at some price you'd love to him back, but at another price you wouldn't have him back under any circumstances. I'm going to try to stay out of it. This will be a team decision. The baseball guys are going to have to figure that out." For his part, it's not as if Hoffman wants to play anywhere else. In 2005, the last time Hoffman was a free agent, he turned down a lot more money with the Indians to remain in San Diego. This time, Hoffman said that the only way he'll look outside of San Diego is "if the Padres don't want me back." If they do, he'd like it to be a multiyear deal. But he's not sure for how long. "Who knows? It's not like they sign many 41-year-olds to four-year deals," he said. "I also don't want to keep going through the year-to-year process, either. That kind of defeats the purpose. If they go young, it's going to take more than one year to go through that kind of growth. I want to be part of it when we win again here." As far as salary is concerned, Hoffman said that he's not going to publicly draw the line on those definitions. "I definitely don't want to get into negotiating through you guys [the media], especially after we went through it as much as we did last time," Hoffman said. "We don't need to argue sides. I think we'd derail it if we went down that road again. "Is there a desire to play again? Yeah. Is there a desire to not have to do this every year? Yeah. What number that is and what it's going to take, if you ask my side they'll say I'm worth this. If you ask them they'll say, 'We can get you for this.' It's part of the process."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.