After missing Hoffman, Indians re-sign Wickman
By giving Wickman to a new deal, the Indians avoided going to salary arbitration with the 36-year-old All-Star, who tied for the AL lead with a career-high 45 saves this year.
More importantly, the Indians finally have their closer for next season after unsuccessful attempts to sign B.J. Ryan and Hoffman, who agreed to a $13.5 million, two-year contract with San Diego that includes an option for 2008.
Wickman, who made $2.7 million last season, may have been able to triple his salary had he gone to arbitration.
"We are pleased to return Bob Wickman to the back end of our bullpen," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "Having Bob return as our closer satisfies one of our stated offseason needs and better defines the roles of the returning members of our bullpen."
Although it was a high-wire act almost every time he took the mound, Wickman anchored a Cleveland bullpen that posted the lowest ERA (2.80) in the majors and kept the Indians in the playoff race until a final-week collapse.
Wickman's 45 saves were the second most in club history, and his 124 saves with Cleveland trail only Doug Jones (129) for the club record.
As the Indians pursued other free agent closers, Wickman always remained one of the club's options. But as their interest in Hoffman intensified, it appeared Wickman, who missed most of two seasons following elbow-ligament replacement surgery, would be with another team in 2006.
But once Hoffman decided to stay in San Diego, Indians general manager Mark Shapiro moved quickly at the winter meetings in Dallas to lock up Wickman for another year.
Now that they have their closer, the club can continue looking for another starting pitcher and a right-handed power hitter.
Wickman joined the Indians in 2000, coming over in a seven-player deal from the Milwaukee Brewers. He had 32 saves in 2001 and had 20 the following year when he was sidelined because of a sore right elbow.
After surgery, Wickman did not pitch in the majors in 2003. He missed the first three months half of 2004 with a strained elbow before returning and recording 13 saves, including 12 straight.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press