Budget Constrictions

Trevor Hoffman is in the fold. There are new uniforms to accompany the new stadium in downtown San Diego. That much is certain. From there the vision is foggier than a marine layer. The double talk is persistent from the San Diego Padres camp. Upgrades in one sentence, budget the next. The chess board has seen its first move, but what will follow?

The recap so far:

Hours after re-signing Trevor Hoffman through at least the 2004 season, the Padres announced a new uniform look for their first season in Petco Park.

The announcements were the first of what Padres general manager Kevin Towers hopes will be a string of upgrades leading to the Padres' move into their new downtown ballpark next April 8.

"I'm happy to have Hoffy back in the fold," Towers said after consummating negotiations with the closer on Wednesday (Nov. 5).

The new deal guarantees Hoffman $2.5 million for 2004 (in addition to the buyout) with another $500,000 in incentives if he reached a "very reachable" number of closing appearances. In addition, if Hoffman reaches that total, he will be guaranteed a $6 million contract for 2005.

"This could have been a very difficult negotiation," said Towers. "The one thing I like about Hoffy is that he is a realist. Hoffman is to be credited for this deal. He wanted to make it worthwhile for us to where we can go out and do some other things. At $10 million (his option salary), it would have been very difficult for us to go out and do much of anything else. Hopefully he makes the difference back in 2005."

As for the uniforms, the Padres will sport an entirely new look for their debut at Petco Park. Although it is the club's 10th uniform change in 35 seasons, it is the first major change since 1991. The club also re-designed its logo.

The club said the new Padre uniforms were designed to capture the colors native to San Diego. A sky-blue trim replaces the orange that had been part of the Padres' color scheme since 1991. The main colors will remain navy blue and white. But instead of the traditional gray uniforms on the road, the Padres road uniforms will be "sand" -- a light tan -- with San Diego across the front. The home uniforms will have "Padres" across the front.

The look is more San Diego than Padres in nature. "It says a lot about San Diego and what this city means," said Phil Nevin. "It's a traditional-looking uniform. But the colors reflect the ocean, the beach, the sand and the skies."

The San Diego Padres never thought they could sign Rod Beck. They know he wants his chance at 300 saves. As early as last week Towers was saying it didn't look good. Now those clouds may be lifting.

"You still looking for a relief pitcher?" Rod Beck said to general manager Kevin Towers during the Padres' press conference to announce the re-signing of closer Trevor Hoffman.

Rod Beck said he would still consider returning to the Padres even though Trevor Hoffman is returning as the club's closer.

Beck declared free agency at the end of the season and wants to see what closer jobs might be open. The Phoenix resident is said to be very interested in Houston. "But I also owe the Padres and Kevin Towers a lot," said Beck. "Kevin gave me a chance when no one else was ready. I want to get 14 more saves, reach the 300 mark and be happy. I can see that still happening as a Padre."

The revelation would save the Padres from exploring the market for one relief pitcher. They would then focus on a lefty and possibly more, using patience instead of jumping in too soon.

What we know:

$42 million -- The amount the Padres have already committed to 12 players for the 2004 season.
$57 million -- Expected to be the Padres' target player-payroll figure in 2004.
5 -- Front-line players the Padres still need (starting catcher, two starting pitcher, at least two relief pitchers).

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