SAN FRANCISCO -- Craig Stammen's name was thrown around in all sorts of trade chatter this summer, but on the night of July 31 the 34-year-old right-hander was still in San Diego. Two months later, that's precisely where Stammen is going to finish what he considers to be the best
SAN FRANCISCO -- Craig Stammen's name was thrown around in all sorts of trade chatter this summer, but on the night of July 31 the 34-year-old right-hander was still in San Diego. Two months later, that's precisely where Stammen is going to finish what he considers to be the best season of his nine-year career.
An eventful offseason awaits. Stammen, who re-signed with the Padres in January, has another year and $2.25 million remaining on his contract. Most teams would consider that a bargain, given the numbers he posted in 2018. He'll almost certainly be trade bait this winter.
"Obviously you'd rather not be traded," Stammen said. "I signed a two-year contract for a reason: to be here. And I really enjoy being a mentor to the younger guys and seeing how much they've improved. They're going to grow and have great Major League careers, so it'd be nice to see that to the end.
"But, again, it's out of my control. It's nice to be wanted by other teams. That's a feather in my cap. But it's totally out of my control."
Following two perfect frames in Tuesday's 12-inning loss to the Giants, Stammen lowered his ERA to 2.81 over 77 innings. His peripheral numbers argue that he's had a better season than his ERA would indicate.
Stammen owns a 2.18 FIP and a 1.05 WHIP. He's striking out hitters at a 28.1 percent clip, with a miniscule 5.5 percent walk rate.
"The big thing for me was first-pitch strikes," Stammen said. "I really tried to be the best at it."
Mission accomplished. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings this season, Stammen's 71.6 percent first-pitch strike rate is the best mark in the Majors, just ahead of Clayton Kershaw and Miles Mikolas.
"That came from Trevor Hoffman," Stammen says, noting a meeting with the legendary Padres closer prior to the 2017 season. Stammen asked Hoffman what went through his mind as he trotted in from the bullpen. Hoffman's response? "Strike one."
Stammen is the elder statesman in an extremely young Padres' bullpen. His success offers a lesson for a pitching staff that currently features 10 rookies -- many of whom boast upper-90s fastballs and filthy offspeed pitches.
Stammen, on the other hand, gets by with pinpoint command. He lives on the corners with his two-seam fastball, and opposing hitters rarely square him up.
"Here's what the [young relievers] realize," said pitching coach Doug Bochtler. "I've been going out there, I'm throwing 97, and I'm getting my stuff turned around. This guy's throwing 92, and nobody hits him hard. That speaks to what gets hitters out."
Stammen spent seven seasons in Washington where he twice pitched in the postseason. He suffered a flexor tendon injury in 2015, which kept him on the sideline for nearly two years, before he rejuvenated his career in San Diego.
Stammen was pitching in the big leagues when most of the rest of the Padres' pitchers were in middle school. More than anything, Stammen wants to stay in San Diego for their development.
"I want them to be able to enjoy playing in the Major Leagues as long as I've been able to enjoy it," Stammen said. "And I want them to be able to enjoy playing in the playoffs, like I've been able to play in the playoffs. Those are my goals for them, and it's fun to think about what the future may hold for them."
• Right-hander Miguel Diaz will join the Padres' contingent in the Arizona Fall League this year, manager Andy Green divulged on Wednesday. Diaz has made nine big league appearances and owns a 5.17 ERA.
"It's an opportunity for him to pitch against the best," Green said. "We felt he'd profit from it."
Diaz was a Rule 5 selection in 2016, and didn't get a ton of opportunity while with the big league club in '17. He impressed in Double-A for most of the '18 season, but remains raw, at 23. Diaz will join prospects Hudson Potts, Buddy Reed, Austin Allen and Hansel Rodriguez as Padres who will play for the Peoria Javelinas in the AFL this season.
• Outfielders Franmil Reyes and Franchy Cordero are slated to play in the Dominican Winter League for Leones del Escogido, though they likely won't play the full season.
Reyes has broken through in a big way for the Padres this season, hitting .286/.342/.514 in 83 games. Cordero, meanwhile, has missed the past four months after surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow. The Padres felt it was imperative for Cordero to make up for missed time with at-bats in winter ball, where he's expected to play center field.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.