Right-hander Craig Stammen is a free agent and will turn 39 years old in March. However, that doesn’t mean he’s hanging up his spikes. “I just love playing,” Stammen tells Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune. “I wasn’t ready. I want to go out a little better than I went out last year. I’m going to try to give it another go.”
Stammen has been a mainstay of the bullpen in San Diego over the past six years. In the four full seasons from 2017 to 2021, he logged at least 79 innings in each campaign and kept his ERA between 2.73 and 3.29. He doesn’t generally get huge strikeout totals, but he does induce a lot of ground balls and limits free passes. He hasn’t had a walk rate above 5.6% since 2017 and has posted a ground ball rate of 45% or higher in each season of his career.
He seemed on track for another solid year in 2022 before a shoulder injury got in the way. He had a 3.34 ERA through 32 1/3 innings when he went on the IL in July due to right shoulder inflammation. He missed about two months, returning to the team in September, but didn’t finish strong. He logged another 8 1/3 innings down the stretch but posted an 8.64 ERA in that time.
It’s possible that he was still dealing with some lingering effects of the injury or was perhaps just rusty after the absence. Stammen himself doesn’t seem to think so, however. “I felt great at the end of the season,” Stammen said. “I’ve continued to throw. … I feel too good to not keep playing.”
It’s possible that Stammen returns to the Padres club he’s been with for the past six years, but Acee also notes that Stammen has begun the process of speaking to other teams. The free agent market for relievers has been robust in the early parts of this offseason, with Edwin Diaz getting $102MM over five years, Robert Suarez getting $46MM over five years and Rafael Montero getting $34.5MM over three. Not all teams will want to spend at that level, however, and some will inevitably look to other options. The last time Stammen was a free agent was going into 2020, when he and the Padres agreed to a two-year deal with a $9MM guarantee and a club option for 2022 that they eventually exercised. Based on Stammen’s age and shoulder injury, he will likely be limited to one-year deals this time around.