"If there's a back-end bullpen alternative out there, then we're going to explore it," general manager Mark Shapiro told MLB.com on Friday.
That includes Hoffman and a range of other potential options at closer for Cleveland, but it won't automatically take the Indians into the deep end of the bidding.
The Indians have been in touch with Hoffman's agent, Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, as well as representatives for several other veteran closers on the market. Their aggressiveness from there will be determined by the opportunity they see of moving on a potential deal.
The Indians were heavily involved in pursuing Hoffman the last time he was a free agent after the 2005 season, but the Padres pulled him back to re-sign a two-year deal with an option during the Winter Meetings after a strong courtship from Cleveland.
Don't expect the Indians to have contract offers for players shopped around to drive the bidding on other teams. In general, however, Shapiro wouldn't characterize his club in a wait-and-see mode for the top end of the market to play out.
Certainly, their willingness to look at a lot of options doesn't suggest an abundance of patience, though it gives them flexibility to use the payroll space they have rather than get drawn too far into bidding.
"We have to balance where we allocate our resources," Shapiro said.
Unlike some rivals also looking for a closer, such as the Tigers, the Indians could have an advantage by being flexible with a multi-year contract. Hoffman is not expected to fall into that category, most likely fitting under a one- or two-year contract, but other options could. Kerry Wood is believed to be seeking a contract of at least three years, while Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes will likely draw long-term contracts even if the bidding doesn't go as high as originally expected.
The Indians are on the search for a closer after Joe Borowski and Rafael Betancourt both struggled in the role last year. Cleveland ended up releasing Borowski, while Betancourt was moved out of the role while dealing with control issues. Jensen Lewis led the Tribe at season's end with 13 saves, all of them in the final two months, after recording just three saves in his four-year Minor League tenure.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.