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Hoffman closes deal at lesser price

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Trevor Hoffman will remain with the Padres for at least one more year after agreeing to a discounted new contract, but Florida Marlins reserve Lenny Harris and three other players filed for free agency Wednesday, pushing the total above 200 for the first time.

The Padres had a $10 million option on the All-Star closer Hoffman for
next season but had no intention of picking it up after he missed
the first five months of last season while recovering from two
offseason shoulder operations.

Instead, they bought him out for $2 million and agreed to a new
deal with a low base salary and the chance to make another $500,000 through
incentives.

"I'm not going to say this was easy. It was complicated because
of his injury," general manager Kevin Towers said. "But it was
pretty clear that Trevor wanted to wear only one uniform, the
Padres' uniform, and we wanted him to stay in a Padres' uniform."

The new deal also has an option for 2005 that Hoffman can
guarantee by reaching certain performance levels. Towers would not
be specific, but said the numbers should be easily attained if the
reliever has a good season.

"It's an opportunity to show the team that I am going to be
healthy and that I plan on pitching a few more years beyond this
contract," Hoffman said. "I just consider myself a Padre. The
thought of going someplace else was real disturbing, to be real
honest."

Hoffman, fifth on the career saves list with 352, made $9
million in 2003, the last year of a $32 million, four-year
contract.

"He knew he'd have to take a much smaller base and prove to us
and prove to the rest of baseball that he can perform at the level
he did before the injury," Towers said.

Hoffman, 36, didn't have any saves last season. Stuck in last place
in the NL West, the Padres didn't want to rush Hoffman after he
returned in September. His nine appearances were all in non-save
situations and spaced out by three days.

Going into his 12th big league season, he's the only player left
from the Padres' 1998 World Series team.

The club will move into a new ballpark next season.

"I can't say how excited the San Diego Padres are that No. 51
will be coming out of the bullpen at Petco Park," Towers said.

Hoffman got his first two saves as a rookie with the expansion Florida Marlins in 1993, then was acquired by the Padres on June 24, 1993.

Hoffman missed the final four games of 2002 with inflammation in
his shoulder, then had surgery to fix a partial tear in his rotator
cuff.

He continued to have pain in the shoulder, which was traced to
arthritic degeneration in the end of his collarbone. Doctors shaved
off about a half-inch of the bone on Feb. 28.

Before his injury, Hoffman set major league records with 40
saves in four straight seasons and 30 saves in eight consecutive
seasons.

Outfielder John Mabry filed for free agency after Seattle declined his $1.5
million option and opted to pay a $250,000 buyout. Atlanta first
baseman Matt Franco also filed.

St. Louis reliever Mike DeJean filed conditionally. The
Cardinals still have not decided whether to exercise his $2.5
million option or pay a $200,000 buyout.

A total of 201 players have filed since the World Series. Up to
21 more players potentially are eligible to file by Sunday's
deadline, including Roger Clemens (who intends to retire) and Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, and Derek Lowe of the Boston Red Sox.

Boston has until Nov. 10 to exercise a $4.5 million option on
Lowe or pay a $500,000 buyout.

Before this year, the previous high for free agent filings was
158 after the 2002 season.

Players cannot start talking money with new teams until Monday.