The San Diego Padres Are Smart to Stack Up on Bullpen Talent

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 25: Relief pitcher Craig Stammen
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 25: Relief pitcher Craig Stammen /

As the San Diego Padres build for 2018 and beyond, it’s clear that the bullpen is an area of focus. Already having All-Star closer Brad Hand on the roster, A.J. Preller and company made two moves to ensure he has talent around him.

Over the weekend San Diego re-signed veteran Craig Stammen and Japanese submariner Kazuhisa Makita to separate two year deals.

Stammen and Makita may not be the most exciting relievers on the market. Players like Addison Reed and Greg Holland are still available. But their signings clearly show that San Diego is keen on making sure their relief corps are one of the best in the majors.

As the Padres are constructed currently, building a strong bullpen is crucial. Getting on top of that earlier is a brilliant move by San Diego.

Craig Stammen

Stammen spent last year with the Padres, appearing in 60 games and pitching to a 2-3 record with a 3.14 ERA and a 74/28 K/BB ratio. His 80.1 innings pitched ranked as the fifth best in the major leagues.

The 33 year old is one of the more underrated pitchers in the major leagues. He isn’t the most well known, but as evident by his 74 strikeouts, he knows how to miss bats. In the Padres bullpen, he gives the team an excellent setup man to Hand.

Keeping Stammen around was crucial for the Padres. He proved he could bounce back after a 2015 season in which he only appeared in five games. He will be a key cog in how much success San Diego’s pen achieves, and a year year deal fits on their timeline.

Overall, Craig Stammen isn’t likely to turn many heads in the Padres’ fan-base. But he was amazing for the club in 2017, and assuming he brings the same in 2018, will be one of the better relievers in San Diego and the MLB.

Kazuhia Makita

Makita is obviously a much more interesting signing, as not many had heard of his name prior to this offseason. His submarine pitching motion was a hit in Japan and will likely make him more than a few fans stateside.

Makita has played for the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League for the past seven seasons. During that time he has appeared in 276 games, accruing a 53-49 record with a 2.83 ERA and a 514/206 K/BB ratio.

More from Padres News

Scouts have cautioned that Makita is more of a ground ball pitcher than a strikeout force, in the form of Brad Zeigler. However he certainly brings a new skillset to the Padres’ pen. He’ll likely be used in middle relief as he gets acclimated to the MLB.

It’s unkown how Makita will perform as a rookie. But if it’s anything like his performance, A.J. Preller might’ve just found himself a steal.

Brad Hand

It’s no secret that Brad Hand is one of the best closers in the MLB and arguably the Padres’ best player. In his two years with San Diego, Hand has appeared in 154 games, pitching to a 7-8 record with a 2.56 ERA and a 215/56 K/BB ratio. He has also made 22 saves and was voted to the 2017 MLB All-Star Game.

The Padres clearly see how much value they have in Hand. Now they can decide either to move him for a kings ransom of a return, or keep him as they look to make their way back to contention.

If they move him, San Diego is stockpiling bullpen options who could take his place. If a guy like Stammen or Makita proves he could close a few games, perhaps the front office would have much more confidence in moving Hand. Although the Padres farm system is already stacked, moving Hand would likely catapult them to the best system in the MLB.

If they plan on holding on to him, building around Hand could prove beneficial. Every year we see how important of a role the bullpen playoffs come playoff time. If the Padres continue to build on their already solid bullpen, they’ll have an impressive core when they choose to compete. Adding talented bullpen pieces around a lights-out closer could be deadly to opposing teams.

Whatever they choose to do with Hand, adding pieces to either replace or support him is key. Taking care of that perhaps a season or two before they try to enter the playoff hunt allows them to make other moves to supplant their playoff roster of the future.

Minor Leagues

If you look at MLB Pipeline’s top Padres’ prospects, seven of the top ten are pitchers. However all of them are starting pitchers. This is on top of Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo, who look like locks for the rotation going into the year.

There’s no doubt that San Diego is loaded with young pitching. However unless they’re converted to relievers, none of them are at least meant to play in the bullpen. Building a veteran pen around a young group of starters would benefit the team in a multitude of ways.

For starters, pun intended, guys like Mackenzie Gore, Cal Quantril and Anderson Espinoza look like studs. Getting them into the rotation is crucial for Padres’ success. It also allows San Diego to spend their money elsewhere. While it’d be nice to have a veteran ace of the staff, there may be too much talent, even with a six-man rotation.

Live Feed

These seven teams are making the Chicago White Sox look bad
These seven teams are making the Chicago White Sox look bad /

Da Windy City

  • Blue Jays trade rumors: Could the Jays capitalize on the Mets rotation surplus?Jays Journal
  • Is Rhys Hoskins the future at first base for the Phillies beyond 2023?That Balls Outta Here
  • An offseason reminder: MLB prospects are only valuable if you use themCall to the Pen
  • MLB Rule 5 Draft quiet for Blue Jays, minor league portion sees some movesJays Journal
  • Blue Jays news: Willson Contreras, MLB news, moreJays Journal
  • Having a veteran bullpen allows your young guys to make mistakes. As they learn in their first year, those veterans are there to help them through the speed bumps. As they grow and mature, the Padres would have a talented group of pitchers both young and old.

    The Padres’ top pitching prospects are on the cusp of the major leagues. They’ll need veteran leadership. Building a strong bullpen who will not only win the team games, but help their young stars, could help propel San Diego to the playoffs.


    Both Craig Stammen and Kazuhisa Makita bring their strengths to San Diego in their own right. Both are talented who will likely help the Padres win more than a few games in 2018 and beyond.

    However both also allow the Padres to either move Hand, bringing back a huge prospect haul, or keep him, forming one of the low-key best bullpens in the league. Either way, adding to the bullpen, and building around Hand only improves his value as a closer or trade bait.

    Building a strong bullpen also allows your young pitching prospects a smoother transition to the MLB. San Diego has arguably the best farm system in terms of pitching, when they reach the majors there will likely be speed bumps. Having veterans in place who can help them through this while helping the team win is key.

    Overall, Satmmen and Makita won’t be the most exciting signings this Padres team will make. But they show that the front office is clearly trying to improve the bullpen.

    As the San Diego Padres look to make their way back to the postseason, that’s the exact way they should build their team.

    Next: An Alternative To the Hosmer Signing