Is it too soon to start enjoying Tommy Hunter? After three games and six innings of work, the veteran righty reliever has given the New York Mets a half-dozen shutout frames. He has allowed just four hits thus far and may end up as one of the more underrated signings of the winter.
Hunter was one of many free agents the Mets signed this offseason to minor league deals. After three years with the Philadelphia Phillies, the 34-year-old had to settle for a lesser contract in order to get his chance again.
You may recall Hunter was actually a free agent briefly this offseason again before re-signing with the club. Now, he’s getting his chance and the Mets should be thankful.
Tommy Hunter can have a permanent role in the Mets bullpen
Hunter was first promoted to the Mets on May 6th and hasn’t looked back since. The out of options reliever is certainly walking a tightrope. Not costly enough for the team to give him some extra chances to save some bucks, he’s likely one of the first men in line to get designated for assignment if the team needs a different warm body.
Hunter can conceivably take the roster spot belonging to Jacob Barnes. Another out of options veteran hurler, he hasn’t pitched very well at all for the team. They have somehow managed to navigate the roster and keep him around while younger guys have gone back and forth from Triple-A to the majors.
The Mets do have a couple of arms in the bullpen with minor league options that could get used. Drew Smith, Robert Gsellman, and Sean Reid-Foley all have them left. The latter two are multi-inning pieces we could even see start at some point. Smith, who recently just returned from the IL, is a different sort of pitcher. He’s a young(er) arm I think a lot of Mets fans want to see given a real chance to succeed.
Things have gone better than expected for the Mets bullpen this season. Hunter just happens to be the latest to piece things together well.
How long can the good times last? The party may extend longer than you think. Hunter hasn’t had a year end with an ERA above 4.18 since way back in 2012 when he was a starting pitcher more often than not. From 2013-2020, Hunter was 23-21 with a 3.24 ERA. This includes a 3.64 ERA over the past three seasons with Philadelphia.
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Hunter may not become the best pitcher in the Mets bullpen this year. There’s a good chance he could at least become one of the more trusted arms and a huge quiet pickup made by the front office.