Posted on January 6, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
While baseball’s hot stove remains ice cold following the holidays, the San Diego Padres are making moves. Within the last day, the Padres have agreed to terms with two pitchers who figure to help their bullpen over the next couple of years. First, the club re-signed veteran righty Craig Stammen to a two-year, $4.5 million deal. According to reports, the Padres have also signed Japanese pitcher Kazuhisa Makita to a two-year deal worth roughly $4 million.
Stammen was one of San Diego’s most reliable relievers last season. In 60 appearances, Stammen tossed 80.1 innings while posting a 3.14 ERA. He was a bonafide workhorse for the Padres and an effective one. He was often used in critical situations with runners on base and willing to pitch more than one inning at a time. He will likely have a similar role in San Diego’s bullpen in 2018.
Last season was an important one for Stammen personally. He was limited to just five appearances in 2015 because of a flexor tendon injury. He then spent the entire 2016 season in the minors. The 33-year old was given a minor league contract by the Padres last winter and made the most of it. Based on his season in 2017, several teams would have likely been interested in his services. But Stammen seemed intent on staying in San Diego if he could.
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“I really like it in San Diego,” Stammen said in September. “They showed me quite a bit of loyalty at the beginning of the season when I was struggling.”
Makita also brings an interesting dimension to San Diego’s bullpen. The 33-year old has a side-arm delivery that is reminiscent of Brad Ziegler or longtime big leaguer Chad Bradford. He was initially a starter but has excelled pitching out of the bullpen since making the transition in 2016.
In two seasons as a reliever, Makita has thrown close to 150 innings and posted an ERA of 1.91. His strikeout rate is quite low for a late-game reliever. However, Makita generates a lot of weak contact and does a good job of limiting his walks.
With Stammen back in the fold and Makita added to the mix, the Padres actually have the makings of a proficient bullpen. San Diego’s bullpen was toward the bottom of the National League in ERA last season. But there’s reason to believe they can turn that around this year.
The Padres already have a proven closer with Brad Hand, who posted a career-low 2.16 ERA last year. Youngsters Phil Maton and Jose Torres emerged as viable bullpen options last season. Those two could combine Stammen and Makita to give the Padres a stable contingent of setup men in support of Hand. There is also hope that Carter Capps will be ready to join the back end of the bullpen after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery in October. The last time he was healthy in 2015 with the Marlins, Capps performed like someone with the potential to become a closer.
Obviously, the signings of Stammen and Makita won’t give the Padres an elite bullpen. But those two along with Hand and possibly Capps should help San Diego close out games they have a chance to win this season. A slightly better bullpen won’t make them contenders in the NL West. But it should make the Padres a more competitive team in 2018 and help move them forward as they rebuild.