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Stammen non-tendered after injury-plagued season

Dec 3, 2015, 12:25 AM EST

AP

The Nationals chose not to tender a 2016 contract to Craig Stammen before Wednesday night’s deadline, a move that makes the popular-but-rehabbing reliever a free agent but doesn’t necessarily preclude him from re-signing with the organization that drafted him a decade ago.

Facing a midnight deadline on six remaining arbitration-eligible players, the Nationals made the easy decisions to tender contracts to Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Wilson Ramos, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa.

The decision wasn’t so easy on Stammen, who missed nearly all of the 2015 season following major arm surgery and is something of a question mark entering 2016.

In the end, the Nationals chose not to tender Stammen a contract, unwilling to make the financial commitment that would have required. Stammen, who made $2.25 million this season, likely would have been in line for a modest raise. At worst, he would have been guaranteed 80 percent of his previous salary ($1.8 million) despite his injury-plagued 2015.

The 31-year-old appeared in only five games in April before reporting pain in his throwing arm. An MRI later revealed a torn flexor tendon, which required season-ending surgery.

If Stammen can make a full recovery and recapture his pre-injury form, he could be a key piece to a Nationals bullpen in need of reliable arms. No pitcher in the majors threw more relief innings from 2012-14 than Stammen, who posted a strong 2.94 ERA during that timeframe.

There’s no guarantee he will return to that form, though, so the Nationals chose to let their 12th round pick from their inaugural 2005 draft become a free agent one season before he would have accrued enough service time to qualify.

The Nationals could still re-sign Stammen to a contract with a lower base salary but incentives based on appearances. A source familiar with the decision said the reliever wouldn’t rule out that possibility but doesn’t necessarily expect an offer to be made and is prepared to sign elsewhere this winter.

If this is the end of Stammen’s time in D.C., he’ll be remembered fondly for his conversion after several seasons as a struggling starter into one of baseball’s most effective and durable relievers. He ranks sixth in club history in both appearances (229) and innings pitched (490 2/3), seventh in wins (26) and strikeouts (370).

The five players who were tendered contracts Wednesday aren’t yet signed for 2016. They and the Nationals still must either come to terms on a salary or else file for arbitration next month.

Earlier Wednesday, the Nationals avoided arbitration with Tyler Moore and Jose Lobaton, signing each backup to a 1-year deal.

  1. naterialguy - Dec 3, 2015 at 5:06 AM

    Wow. This surprises me even though it was talked about as a distinct possibility. Hope he fully recovers whether he plays for us or not. I believe his injury was the single most devastating one to the team last season.

    • natsfan1a - Dec 3, 2015 at 7:58 AM

      Dang. Seconded on all counts.

  2. Dave - Dec 3, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    Bummer. That recovery from his injury must not be going well. I hope he lands somewhere that works for him. He’s been a stalwart for the Nats.

  3. jfmii - Dec 3, 2015 at 8:32 AM

    Despite the large dollars, a brutal profession

  4. JayB - Dec 3, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    This is not a good sign for the Nats at all…..where can they go to get a complete bull pen…cause that is what Rizzo is telling use he needs and wants to do…..most media was reporting that Craig would be back and was a key part of the rebuild….Jamie

    • nats106 - Dec 3, 2015 at 9:13 AM

      Spot on. I agree that a slow/bad recovery may have led to this, but this leaves another hole beyond the 6th that must be filled.

    • letsallbaseball - Dec 3, 2015 at 9:27 AM

      He’s only been throwing for 2 and a half weeks, off of flat ground. They may have wanted to see a little bit more than that before a commitment. I hope he’s re-signed, maybe with some incentives that can get him back up close to what he was projected to earn in arbitration. But we don’t know what the Nats know about the situation. The media wouldn’t have all the details either, although the Stammen interview posted on MASN the other day has him seeming very encouraged. But of course he would be.

    • infideljack - Dec 3, 2015 at 2:19 PM

      Rizzo may think he can pick him up at a discount. Beacuse of his injuries last year, he may not get picked up right away.

  5. Doc - Dec 3, 2015 at 9:35 AM

    We’re on the outside of this, as we usually are, but Stammen was one of the good guys for as long as I’ve been following the Nats.

    Hope he gets back at it, somewhere, somehow.

  6. langleyclub - Dec 3, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    Unless you have intimate knowledge of the extent of Stammen’s injury and how his rehab progressed (or not progressed), impossible to know whether the decision made sense or not.

    With that said, if healthy, Stammen would fit a need (at a reasonable price) in a major area of focus; so, the natural conclusion is that there is considerable doubt about Stammen’s ability to be counted on to help in 2016.

    Also, wouldn’t be surprised if the Nats sign Stammen.

  7. veejh - Dec 3, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    I see a trend of moving on from injured players after this past season. It may be difficult to fill the gaping hole left from his departure, but I feel this will benefit the team long term.

    • water47 - Dec 3, 2015 at 10:59 AM

      being more cautious after a lot of injuries in the last few years make sense. Then again, there may be some gambles worth taking. How about Henderson Alvarez as a gamble? He may take the whole yer to recover but a that may work out OK for Nats. Invest in a previously top pitcher on a incentive-laden two-year deal and then wait for him to heal. The Nats get a SP for next year or two, He is Boras client but worth a try.

      If it works, you get a #2 SP for a discount and have a buffer if Stras signs elsewhere. If not, it would be a lower cost FA signing.

      • veejh - Dec 3, 2015 at 11:09 AM

        I don’t disagree that taking a chance couldn’t work out, but it seems Riz has based a large % of our team on previously injured players. Rendon, Escobar, GIolito come to mind immediately.

  8. ptindc - Dec 3, 2015 at 11:08 AM

    Recall that the arbitration rules specify that a contract cannot be less than 80% of the previous season. So I’m sure that a contract will be in the works at a lesser amount, since he got paid a decent sum for not playing in 2015. This seems somewhat reminiscent of the Matt Purke scenario last year.

  9. Section 222 - Dec 3, 2015 at 11:25 AM

    I thought perhaps that they were in discussion with Stammen, like they were with TyMo and Lobi, and just hadn’t reached an agreement yet. But Stammen says he’s not necessarily expecting an offer to be made. So perhaps the Nats are ready to let him go because they don’t think he’ll make it back.

    It’s really hard to know what’s going on when you don’t know what’s going on.

    • natsfan1a - Dec 3, 2015 at 3:33 PM

      Now, that’s funny!

      “It’s really hard to know what’s going on when you don’t know what’s going on.”

      • Bignat33 - Dec 4, 2015 at 3:48 AM

        Yogi is back,!

  10. trfwans - Dec 3, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    Stammen wasn’t non-tendered for money reasons. Even if he won in arbitration, he could still be Pattersoned if he showed up lame in spring training. The downside of that is that he takes up a roster spot. But by making him a FA now, the Nats can sign him back on a minor league/major league contract with an opt out if he doesn’t make the OD roster. That’s the best he could hope to get from any other team, although his agent will surely test the market to verify this before he signs back with the Nats. By doing it this way they have all spring to find out if he’ll be ready for 2016.

    • Section 222 - Dec 3, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      Good analysis. The risk that he’ll sign with another team seems remote. Not so with Lobi, who they want for 2016, and TyMo who has at least some trade value.

      • trfwans - Dec 3, 2015 at 1:08 PM

        Section 222, you need to see a shrink and get some meds for your schizophrenia or whatever it is you’ve got going mentally. One day you’re praising my comments, and another day you’re fantasizing that I’m Feel Wood and getting me blocked from commenting on another site on account of that. Get some help, dude. Seriously.

      • Section 222 - Dec 3, 2015 at 1:48 PM

        Hahaha. Thanks Dave. Feel, you and I both know who you are. Unlike you, I respond to all comments based on their content, not the identity of their author. You sometimes make good points and I wanted to give you props for your comment on Stammen. It brought something to the discussion of tendering contracts that I hadn’t seen before. It’s not the first time I’ve agreed with you and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

        And by the way, I had nothing to do with banning you or anyone else from any site. I’m pretty much a first amendment purist in that respect.

        Congrats on maintaining the same handle for almost three months. Feels good not to be hiding anymore, doesn’t it?

      • trfwans - Dec 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM

        Dude, you need to get over your FeelWood obsession. Seriously. No hahaha about it. I posted 111 comments on that other site with no problem whatsoever. Then as soon as you said “He’s FeelWood” I was banned. In mid-thread. Coincidence? I think not.

    • Dave - Dec 3, 2015 at 1:34 PM

      What? If 222 posts a comment that agrees with your analysis, he should “get some help” because he often disagrees with you?

      I’d say maybe somebody needs to get some help, but I’m pretty sure it’s not 222.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 3, 2015 at 8:21 PM

        Maybe, but that said, the feuding thing got really old a really long time ago.

  11. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 3, 2015 at 12:23 PM

    I’m not naming names, I’m just saying.
    http://qz.com/563683/turns-out-toxic-coworkers-are-more-expensive-than-superstar-hires/

    • ArVAFan - Dec 3, 2015 at 2:54 PM

      Obviously, the Nats were not included in the survey. Because the cost to hire a superstar baseball performer benefits the organization a lot more than $5,000. Unless you are valuing performance by the second!

    • janebeard - Dec 3, 2015 at 9:20 PM

      I’M naming names.
      #Papelgone.

  12. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 3, 2015 at 12:33 PM

    And there’s this, while we’re thinking about options for leadoff hitters:

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2015/12/second-baseman-jose-fernandez-leaves-cuba.html

  13. Candide - Dec 3, 2015 at 1:40 PM

    I’d never heard of a torn flexor tendon before Stammen’s (not that my ignorance is evidence of much), so is there a history of how well pitchers come back after surgery for it?

    • ArVAFan - Dec 3, 2015 at 2:51 PM

      SSS, but apparently not that well. Check the other blog for details on a couple of them.

      • virginiascopist - Dec 3, 2015 at 3:00 PM

        Cliff Lee also, I believe, is recovering from the same surgery (probably had it about the same time that Stammen did).

      • Section 222 - Dec 4, 2015 at 12:25 AM

        vascope, awhile ago I heard Cliff Lee decided not to have the surgery. He was “rehabbing” and collecting a paycheck this year. So when I saw your comment, I wondered “what the heck happened on that?” And lo and behold there’s a story today:

        http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/cliff-lee

        Sounds like his injury was not as severe as Stammen’s. Still, I wouldn’t expect much more from him. Really good career though.

  14. Doc - Dec 3, 2015 at 3:23 PM

    Apparently, da Metsies are in on Zobrist, as are the Nats.

    Say no to Ben and his immobile defensive skills. Let the Mets gather some 4 yr. baggage on a soon to be 35 yr. old has been. Not too many 39 year old 2B guys around.

    • veejh - Dec 3, 2015 at 4:06 PM

      He fits perfectly into all of our infield and outfield issues, and he’s good. I disagree wholeheartedly.

      • veejh - Dec 3, 2015 at 4:08 PM

        ….and a switch hitter.

    • jd - Dec 3, 2015 at 4:45 PM

      Doc,

      You are way off on this one. You are talking about a player who was a key cog on a world championship team. He still plays a good 2nd base and what’s more is that you can plug him seamlessly anywhere on the field other than catcher and he will do a good job wherever you play him. It’s not an accident that there is a long line of suitors for his services and his game also appears to age well.

      • Doc - Dec 3, 2015 at 7:00 PM

        His bat may be adequate, but his defensive metrics are in significant decline. ! year might merit consideration, but 4 years would be totally ridiculous.

        Besides, Zobrist’s bat won’t get to play as much in D.C. as he did in K.C.—hence his batting stats will go down.

      • unkyd59 - Dec 3, 2015 at 9:24 PM

        I’m afraid I’m with doc, here…. He’s gonna get a four year deal from somebody, and he’s just too old… It’s really nice to have a Ben Zobrist, but it’s not a required piece… Trade Yunel for a decent utility OF, bring back Span… There’s lots of ways to get deep…

  15. janebeard - Dec 3, 2015 at 9:19 PM

    Man He was a piece I was waiting for and counting on. Things look even more bleak than before. Especially for Craig. Wow.

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