JANUARY 17: The Padres have announced the deal.
JANUARY 4: The Padres have agreed to a multi-year contract with free-agent righty Craig Stammen, reports Robert Murray. It’s a two-year deal that will guarantee Stammen $9MM through the 2021 season with a team option for a third year, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. If exercised, that $4MM option would raise Stammen’s earnings to a total of $12MM over three years—otherwise, he’ll collect a $1MM buyout. The deal, pending a physical, also includes $500K in yearly incentives (Twitter link), bringing the overall potential payout to $13.5MM. Stammen is represented by Paragon Sports International.
Stammen, 35, has spent the last three seasons with San Diego and has been an indispensable piece in a solid bullpen unit, with the Padres relying heavily on his right arm in the late innings: his 241 1/3 innings pitched since 2017 are the second most among all relievers during that span, with only Yusmeiro Petit pitching more in relief.
Not only has he been durable, but Stammen has quietly been one of the best bullpen arms in baseball since joining the Padres, posting a 3.06 ERA with the team; Fangraphs’ WAR metric ranks him as the 36th-best reliever over the last three years. He has served as a stellar second fiddle to relief ace Kirby Yates, with the pair anchoring a bullpen that was among the best in the National League in 2019.
Last year, Stammen notched a 3.29 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 82 innings for the Friars, striking out 73 batters and walking just 15. He’s proven to excel at preventing bases on balls, but he’s had some trouble preventing home runs, with opponents averaging 1.4 HR/9 against him. Not surprisingly, his best season came in 2018 when he allowed just three homers all year, but that was buoyed by a perhaps abnormally low 4.9% HR/FB rate.
The San Diego bullpen looks to once again receive top marks in 2020, with Stammen and Yates returning and free-agent signee Drew Pomeranz adding a solid lefty to the late-inning blueprint. There are a couple of wild cards in the mix, but the likes of Pierce Johnson, Matt Strahm, and Andres Muñoz have the potential to alleviate the workload of the high-leverage arms. If the offense, bolstered by Tommy Pham and (fingers crossed) a full year of Fernando Tatis Jr., can take a leap forward, one hopes that the likes of Yates and Stammen will more often be put in a winning position.
Stammen will play the 2020 season at age 36, so while he will no doubt remain a key cog in that San Diego ’pen, it’s reasonable to expect a slightly lighter workload for the veteran moving forward. He missed nearly all of 2015 with an elbow injury, but he’s quelled any lingering concerns about his durability with a weighty role in recent years. His new contract falls right about in line with the two-year, $10MM deal MLBTR projected for Stammen at the beginning of the offseason, and he’ll of course have the chance to tack on another year if he can keep up his current production.