The Padres have announced that they exercised their club options over right-handed relievers Pierce Johnson and Craig Stammen for the 2022 season. Johnson will be retained for $3MM while Stammen will return on a $4MM salary.
While the two relievers offer differing skillsets, it was an easy call to hold onto both players for similar salaries. In 2021 Johnson posted a solid 3.22 ERA and again mystified the opposition with a 31.6% strikeout percentage that ranks as firmly above average. While the right-hander gives up too many free passes (11.1 BB%) and doesn’t induce many groundballs (33.3 GB%) he has proven adept at avoiding home runs when opponents are actually able to put the ball in play against him.
Stammen, meanwhile, rebounded nicely from an uncharacteristically poor 2020 season where he sported a 5.63 ERA after 24 innings. It’s worth noting that his performance there was impacted by some bad BABIP luck, as the durable reliever’s underlying peripherals largely resemble this year’s successful campaign. Regardless, this recent season saw the BABIP pendulum swing the other way while Stammen’s strikeout rate ticked upward and his 55.1% groundball rate remained typically robust. The 38-year-old will look to replicate this year’s 3.06 ERA next season in what will be his sixth season of a very strong Padres tenure.
They’ve also declined their options over right-handed reliever Keone Kela and outfielder Jake Marisnick. San Diego could have paid Kela $800K and Marisnick $4MM to stay aboard next season, but clearly felt between their respective injury and underperformance neither was worth the entirety of that investment. Marisnick will receive a $500k buyout before heading to free agency.
The Kela decision registers as the greater surprise here, as a strikeout-happy reliever with a career 3.33 ERA on its face seems like a bargain with a sub-$1MM price tag. Still, the 28-year-old is recovering from Tommy John surgery and wasn’t thought to be available until midway through next season. After tallying just 42 1/3 innings over the past three seasons, and some declining bottom-line results, the Padres clearly didn’t feel the fiery right-hander was worth the half-season gamble.
Marisnick, meanwhile, was a no-brainer to have his option declined after an ill-fated midseason deal with the Cubs landed him on the west coast. As a glove-first, center field-capable player Marisnick provided adequate production at the plate in Chicago, delivering a .731 OPS. That number cratered following the trade however, as a subsequent .472 OPS contributed to the Padres year-end skid and negated a good deal of the value Marisnick had built for himself earlier in the year.
Additionally, the team confirmed that utility-man Jurickson Profar has exercised his $7.3MM player option for the upcoming season while right-handed closer Mark Melancon has declined his $5MM player option in favor of a $1MM buyout and trip to free agency. The result of both player options are largely formalities at this point, considering the platform years both players posted.
By measure of bWAR Profar was the definition of a replacement-level player in 2021. The one-time top prospect bounced around five positions and upped his walk-rate to a cool 11.9% across 137 games. Unfortunately, that versatility was undercut by generally poor reviews of Profar’s glovework across 4 of his 5 positions. Furthermore, an inability to hit the ball with much authority meant those 137 games worth of plate appearances led to a punchless .227/.329/.320 slash line. Profar will look to tap into some of the upside that he’s shown flashes of throughout his career before making a call on next year’s $8.3MM player option.
Lastly, the 36-year-old Melancon proved to be one of last offseason’s thriftiest pickups. In return for a $3MM guarantee the veteran gave the Padres outstanding production at the back of their bullpen, leading the league with 39 saves in his fifth All-Star campaign. Some batted ball luck worked in Melancon’s favor this season, suggesting his 2.23 ERA is due for some regression, but a very strong groundball and home run rate— plus a spike in strikeout rate from last season— indicate that Melancon remains a plenty serviceable option as a high leverage reliever.