Posted on January 4, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
The San Diego Padres haven’t made a big splash this offseason the way they’ve had the past two years. But they’ve made several incremental moves to improve their roster ahead of the 2020 season. That continued on Saturday when they agreed to re-sign veteran reliever Craig Stammen. The deal is worth $9 million in guaranteed money over the next two years and includes a $4 million club option for the 2022 season and performance incentives.
Stammen, who will turn 36 in March, has spent the last three seasons with the Padres. He initially signed a minor league deal with San Diego ahead of the 2017 season after making just five major league appearances over the previous two seasons due to elbow trouble. Stammen has had a return to form in San Diego, quietly reasserting himself as one of the most consistent setup men in baseball. He’s also proven to be durable, making at least 60 appearances and pitching at least 79 innings in each of his three seasons in San Diego.
In 2019, Stammen made 76 appearances, going 8-7 with a 3.29 ERA and collected 31 holds. He also led the majors with 56 of his appearances coming in high-leverage situations. Despite having more than a decade of major league experience under his belt, Stammen shows no signs of decline in his performance.
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During his three years in San Diego, the Padres have resisted the urge to trade Stammen. He would have been a valuable trade chip, especially with the Padres finishing with a losing record for the last nine seasons. However, San Diego finally appears ready to start competing for a playoff spot in the next year or two, and Stammen is excited to be a part of a potential resurgence after years of losing.
“[Padres GM A.J. Peller] and [assistant GM Josh Stein] did a good job of making sure I knew from day one they wanted to have me back,” says Stammen. “It was important for me to come back because we started something a few years back and we’re trying to finish it out the right way. You have those tough years behind you, and now you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It would make all the tough seasons — the last couple Augusts and Septembers — not be as bad.”
With Stammen coming back, the Padres have the making of a solid bullpen heading into the 2020 season. Kirby Yates will continue to serve as the closer after he was one of the best in the game last year, collecting 41 saves and pitching to a 1.19 ERA. The Padres also brought back lefty Drew Pomeranz after he excelled in a relief role for the Red Sox last year. Young flamethrower Andres Munoz and lefty Matt Strahm are also in line for important bullpen roles. If Yates can continue to pitch at a high level, the group of Stammen, Pomeranz, Munoz, and Strahm should give the Padres an impressive amount of bullpen depth.
After winning just 70 games last season, the Padres still have a long way to go to become a playoff contender. But having a reliable bullpen will be critical to their success in 2020 and beyond. Retaining Stammen and adding Pomeranz are both moves that will help to solidify the San Diego bullpen, putting the rest of the roster in a position to make the Padres competitive this year.