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One Last Move: Tommy Hunter

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Hunter threw just five-and-one-third innings for the Phillies last year, but he’s worth an invitation to spring training.

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Coming off a season that saw their bullpen struggle mightily, the Mets haven’t exactly been aggressive in addressing the issue heading into the 2020 season. Although the team signed Dellin Betances to a reasonable deal, he’s been the only major bullpen signing in free agency. Brad Brach, who ended last season with the Mets, was signed to a deal for under $1 million, and Michael Wacha was signed to a contract that suggests that either he or Steven Matz will likely end up in the bullpen to start the year.

That all leaves the Mets’ bullpen depth chart looking something like this:

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Dellin Betances
  • Seth Lugo
  • Jeurys Familia
  • Justin Wilson
  • Brad Brach
  • Michael Wacha/Steven Matz
  • Robert Gsellman

So here’s where Tommy Hunter could be relevant. For starters, he only threw 5.1 innings for the Phillies last year, having missed the vast majority of the season because of injuries. That likely lines the 33-year-old up for a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, perhaps even with the expectation that he would begin the year in the minors.

Despite never having been a prolific strikeout pitcher, Hunter accumulated a 3.22 ERA and 132 ERA+ over the course of 156.2 innings that spanned the 2016 through 2018 seasons. Considering the fact that Robert Gsellman’s time as a reliever has resulted in a 4.28 ERA over the course of 151.1 innings, there’s at least a chance that Hunter could be an improvement over him—even if the Mets enter the season with all of their pitchers in good health.

Regardless of whether or not Hunter is ready for Opening Day and an improvement over Gsellman, he’d certainly have at least a good a shot at being a useful major league relief pitcher as any of the Mets’ depth options in the bullpen—a list that includes Tyler Bashlor, Jacob Rhame, Paul Sewald, Drew Smith, and Daniel Zamora, among others. And the Mets signed Chasen Shreve to a minor league deal, and he should be included among those ranks.

In reality, the Mets should bring in more than one pitcher like Hunter, but is they’re only going to bring in one such pitcher before spring training begins, he’d be a perfectly reasonable one.