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2016 Free agent profile: Tommy Hunter

The 29-year-old has been an effective relief pitcher for the past three seasons.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Picked late in the first round of the 2007 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers, Tommy Hunter did not take long to reach the big leagues. He pitched in Low-A the year he was drafted, and he worked his way up through High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A the following year before making three major league starts for the Rangers.

Hunter was a starting pitcher at the time, and he continued to be one for most of the three-and-a-half seasons he spent in with Texas. In total, Hunter made 44 starts and nine relief appearances for the Rangers between 2008 and 2011, and he had a 4.36 ERA and 4.76 FIP over that span. It's worth noting that by ERA+, which accounts for league and ballpark, Hunter was a slightly-above-average pitcher. But at the trade deadline in July of 2011, the contending Rangers traded Hunter and first baseman Chris Davis to the Baltimore Orioles for Koji Uehara.

Baltimore used Hunter as a starter for all but one appearance the rest of the way that year, but he had a 5.06 ERA and 4.68 FIP in 69.1 innings. He remained a starter for much of 2012, and the results were again uninspiring. Through 23 appearances, all but three of which were starts, Hunter had a 5.95 ERA. After a three-inning, eight-run start on August 22, the Orioles optioned him to Triple-A. When he returned a couple weeks later, he pitched out of the bullpen for the rest of the season.

The results were impressive. Hunter made ten appearances as a reliever, and in 12.2 innings, he struck out twelve, walked two, and had a 0.71 ERA. He hasn't appeared as a starter ever since.

Between 2013 and 2014, Hunter made 128 relief appearances for the Orioles. Despite a low strikeout rate of 6.9 batters per nine innings, he had a 2.88 ERA, thanks in part to excellent control. Hunter walked just 1.6 opposing batters per nine innings between those two seasons. The results were as drastically different as his fastball velocity, as his average four-seam fastball velocity jumped from just over 93 miles per hour to over 97 miles per hour, according to Brooks Baseball.

Hunter began 2015 with the Orioles, and while he didn't pitch quite as well as he had over the past two years, he was still a pretty good relief pitcher. With a 3.63 ERA and 3.38 FIP in 39 appearances, the soon-to-be free agent was traded to the Chicago Cubs at the July deadline for outfielder Junior Lake.

But Hunter's time in Chicago didn't go well. His velocity was where it had been, and his strikeout rate went up. But Hunter struggled mightily with home runs, finished his brief tenure with the Cubs with a 5.74 ERA, and didn't pitch in the Cubs' playoff run, which ended at the hands of the Mets in the NLCS.

The Mets are looking for bullpen help this winter. The crowd-sourced predictions expect the 29-year-old to get a two-year, $10 million contract. If he were to pitch roughly as well as he did in Baltimore, he'd easily be worth that deal. Whether or not that sort of deal for a relief pitcher is possible given the Mets' payroll budget is an open question, but perhaps there would be a fit there as the Mets look to shore up their mid-to-late-inning bullpen in front of the dominant Jeurys Familia.