As the Philadelphia Phillies look to fill out their bullpen, a familiar face may show up in Clearwater next Tuesday.
Hunter had a career year with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017, posting a 2.61 ERA in 61 appearances thanks in large part to his dominant cutter. The Phillies signed Hunter to a two-year/$18 million free-agent contract, hoping he would help solidify their bullpen as they attempted to contend again.
Instead, Hunter’s two seasons in Philadelphia proved to be disappointing.
In 65 games for the Phillies in 2018, Hunter posted a 3.80 ERA and 3.63 FIP. 2019 turned into a lost season for Hunter. He didn’t make his season debut until late June after being sidelined by a right forearm strain in Spring Training. After five – albeit scoreless – regular season appearances, Hunter needed flexor tendon surgery in late July, which ended his season. It is worth noting at that time that then-Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said that Hunter didn’t have any damage to his UCL at that time.
At the same time, while Hunter may serve as a reminder that Matt Klentak’s front office has struggled to build a consistently effective bullpen, there would be almost no risk in bringing the 33-year-old to camp. He would almost certainly come on a minor-league deal. If he’s able to be effective – or the Phillies feel like he will be at some point in 2020 – they can keep him in the organization. If not, then he would be let go.
Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarez, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris are pretty certain to make the Phillies Opening Day bullpen. One of Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez – whichever isn’t the Phillies No. 5 starter – will likely join that quartet. If signed, Hunter would join a group that includes Ranger Suarez, Victor Arano, Austin Davis, Enyel De Los Santos, Edgar Garcia, Cole Irvin, Francisco Liriano, Trevor Kelley, Blake Parker, Drew Storen and Robert Stock as options to fill out the final few spots in Joe Girardi’s bullpen.
After getting burned by injuries in their a season ago, the Phillies appear to be hoping a mix of quantity and better luck will help them to build a playoff-caliber bullpen.
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