Former Padres GM reflects on trade for Hoffman

Smith helped to acquire Hall of Famer from Marlins in 1993

January 25th, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- Randy Smith wasn't even a month into his tenure as Padres general manager when he received the directive from above to move Gary Sheffield.
It was June 1993, and Smith quickly set to work on finding a trade partner. On June 24, Sheffield and left-hander Rich Rodriguez were shipped to the Marlins for a pair of prospects and a scrawny 25-year-old right-hander named Trevor Hoffman who had debuted earlier in the season.
"Quality for quality," Smith would say, describing the deal at the time. Some scoffed at the notion, having viewed Sheffield's departure primarily as a salary dump. Smith had the last laugh.
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Twenty-five years later, Hoffman is headed for the Hall of Fame. The legendary Padres closer was elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday, having received 79.9 percent of the vote.
"What he became really changed the organization and the future of the franchise," Smith said. "He's a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word."

Even Smith couldn't have predicted the success Hoffman was bound for. In 18 big league seasons, the right-hander amassed 601 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera, along with a 2.87 ERA and a 25.8 percent strikeout rate.
At the time, Smith believed he was acquiring a useful bullpen piece. He did not know he had landed one of the best relief pitchers to ever take the mound.
"It became really obvious Florida was going to be our dance partner with Sheffield," Smith said. "... Before we even started talking with them, [Hoffman] was the first name we identified as a guy we wanted. We went back and forth quite a bit, and we were able to get Hoffy in the deal. Obviously nobody thought he'd be a Hall of Famer. We thought he'd be a guy who could pitch late in the game and provide good relief for us. But he certainly exceeded our expectations."
During his election press conference on Wednesday, Hoffman thanked Smith for "taking a shot on me." He also reflected on the trade, with a quarter century's worth of hindsight.
"I remember it [happening] really fast," Hoffman said. "I remember being tapped on the shoulder, and they said, 'We're going to pack up your locker. You don't have a lot of stuff that's good. And we're going to be sending you to San Diego.'"

Initially, Hoffman said he felt overwhelmed by the prospect of a trade. It was his brothers who calmly reminded him he'd be playing ball in Southern California, a short drive from where he grew up in Orange County.
"You think, 'OK, I'm going to be in one spot for 15 years,' and I just thought it was going to be in Florida," Hoffman said. "But I'm thankful it was in San Diego. It's awesome that it happened the way it did."

As for Smith, not many general managers can claim they acquired a future Hall of Famer as a rookie. Smith did so in his first month on the job.
"It's actually pretty special to me, although I thought he was a first-ballot guy," Smith said. "We were waiting, maybe not quite as anxiously as he was, but pretty close to it, just because he's such a great guy.
"You get a guy in his first year in the big leagues, and he goes on to be an All-Star and one of the greatest closers of all time, there's certainly some professional satisfaction. But I'm happier for him. ... He's really a guy who's truly deserving of it, from who he is, his work ethic and obviously how he performed on the field."