Philadelphia Phillies: Why bother with Tommy Hunter?

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies continue to look under every rock for bullpen help, as they’ve decided to bring back reliever Tommy Hunter.

Look, you have to appreciate that the Philadelphia Phillies are trying anything and everything to improve the ball club. A new manager, a couple notable free agent signings to strengthen the rotation and the lineup.

But the bullpen is just befuddling.

Last year, the Phillies spent in that area, and it bit them in the butt, with a rash of injuries and not enough organizational depth to make up for it. Now, they’ve brought back one of those walking wounded, Tommy Hunter. It’s yet another Hail Mary by the Phillies as they try to put together a group that’s competent enough to form the bridge between the starters and, presumably, Hector Neris in the ninth inning.

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Still, come on. Hadn’t we moved past Tommy Hunter?

After he signed with the Phillies before the 2018 season, Hunter was decent in his first year in Philadelphia. He wasn’t as good as he had been with Tampa the previous year (which netted him a two-year, $18 million contract with the Phils), but he had his moments.

2019, though, was a total write-off, with Hunter limited to just 5.1 innings due to a forearm injury. Now, the Phillies are betting (we don’t know how much, because financials haven’t been released yet) that the 33-year old Hunter has at least one more season’s worth of work in him.

I have my doubts.

Bullpen pieces like Seranthony Dominguez and Adam Morgan are already questionable to be ready for opening day, and now the Phillies have added still another element of uncertainty since Hunter’s deal is a major league one. They’re hoping, of course, that even if Hunter has to start the season on the DL (I still refuse to say IL!), he’ll be good to go shortly after it begins. There are just too many variables.

In an offseason rife with low-level, veteran signings, the Phillies are taking the “devil you know” approach by bringing back Hunter, and it’s not going to work out well. All the while, you can trace this move directly up the ladder to Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail, who were with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011 when they traded for Hunter. All these years later, they clearly still love the guy.

As usual, the fan in me wants Hunter to get back to at least his 2017 form while bringing some substance to a bullpen that really looks like it will be this team’s downfall. But, realistically, bringing in Hunter is just another cost-cutting move. And it’s one that has an injury cloud hanging over it as well. You have to wonder if this Phillies front office will ever learn its lesson about how to construct a bullpen.

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If Tommy Hunter stays healthy and contributes in a positive way to a successful Phillies season, come back here in October to watch me eat crow. But don’t hold your breath on that one.