As baseball's offseason takes shape, we will take a look at each player on the Phillies 2020 roster and where they fit in the future. We'll go through the roster by uniform number, lowest to highest for position players, highest to lowest for pitchers, and alternate daily.
Today: Reliever Tommy Hunter
The 34-year-old right-hander has pitched in the majors for 12 seasons and recorded a 4.08 ERA in 472 games. When healthy, he takes the ball in any situation and gives his club 60 or more games.
How he became a Phillie
Hunter was one of several veteran relievers to join the club in recent offseasons, joining the likes of David Robertson, Pat Neshek and Jose Alvarez. The results were mixed, at best.
The Phillies signed Hunter to a two-year, $18-million deal before the 2018 season. He pitched in 65 games and recorded a 3.80 ERA in 2018 but was limited to just five games in 2019 because of an elbow injury that required surgery. Hunter became a free agent last winter and returned on a one-year deal worth $850,000 in 2020.
The Phillies' postseason drought swelled to nine seasons largely because they had the worst bullpen in the majors. In fact, it was historically bad. The unit's 7.06 ERA was the worst in the majors since 1930.
Hunter's re-signing came to symbolize the front office's failed plan for constructing the bullpen last winter. Too much faith (i.e., finger-crossing) was placed on pitchers coming back from injury (e.g., Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan) and there wasn't enough of an outside upgrade. Hunter, in fact, was the only free-agent reliever that the club signed to a big-league deal last offseason.
For fans, the outspoken Hunter became a lightning rod for the bullpen's struggles, but he did have a couple of very good runs during the 60-game season. He had one stretch where he allowed just one run over an 11⅔-inning span and another where he racked up 5⅔ scoreless innings. Eighteen of his 24 outings were scoreless. When he did give up runs, it often cost a Phillies team that consistently gave up leads. In fact, 21 of the Phillies' losses came in games in which they led at one point.
Hunter ended the season with a 4.01 ERA. He allowed 11 earned runs and 22 hits in 24⅔ innings. He struck 25 and walked six.
What lies ahead
Hunter's arm strength was slow coming around after surgery and the velocity on his cut fastball was down in 2020. With another offseason to recover from surgery, his stuff should be better in 2021. It would not be a surprise if he's in somebody's bullpen, but it probably won't be the Phillies' bullpen. Both sides need a change.