Tommy Hunter is in a strange place on the depth chart

New York Mets v Chicago Cubs
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Tommy Hunter has been a very good reliever for the New York Mets. Through 30.1 innings spanning 22 appearances, the veteran righty has given a 1.78 ERA performance. This includes 8 shutout frames in 2021 and a 2.42 showing in 2022.

Hunter left the organization in 2021 when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Rich Hill deal. He was hurt at the time. He never did get to pitch for the Rays. On April 28, 2022, he returned to New York on a minor league deal. He made his season debut on June 19 and would spend the rest of the season on the roster with an IL stint in between.

Back on another minor league deal, Hunter is in a strange place. Odds are stacked against him making the team out of camp because his presence takes away one roster spot with minor league options left. Currently not even on the 40-man roster at all, Hunter is a reliable reliever with some bureaucracy in the way.

Mets pitcher Tommy Hunter has a unique purpose with this team

MLB teams have closers, setup men, lefty specialists, mop-up men, and everything else we’ve labeled. Hunter is none of those. He’s minor league cavalry for later in the season.

Because he lacks minor league options, the Mets would need to DFA him in order to send him back to the minors. It doesn’t matter if he’s signed to a minor league deal or not. His service time will factor into when we actually do see him on the MLB roster and maybe even how long he stays.

Hunter would need to blow everyone away in spring training. It’s hard to see this happening. He’s not a young unknown Ricky Vaughn. The Mets know what they could have in him. Hunter wouldn’t have returned if he didn’t understand the drill either.

As a late-season promotion candidate, Hunter is someone the Mets signed back to give them depth and someone to turn to when the injuries begin to pile up. With 37-year-olds Adam Ottavino and David Robertson in the bullpen, age is definitely something to pay attention to with that pair. Hunter is no youngster himself at age 36 so he’ll need to stay fresh and healthy in the minors.

Last season, we saw Chasen Shreve impress in the spring and win his way from a non-roster invitee to a member of the bullpen to begin the year. His time was short-lived. Following some brief success, it was apparent the team needed to move on and look for better options.

The Mets have loaded up on arms this winter. From waivers, they’ve claimed Taylor Saucedo, Stephen Ridings, and William Woods. Woods was already DFA’d but passed through waivers and remains with the organization. There’s always a chance Hunter could also clear waivers and remain with the Mets organization. However, if he’s pitching well, someone would pick him away from the Mets in the middle of the season.

One of the last mysteries remaining with the Mets roster is who rounds out the bullpen. They have a lot of places they can go. There’s even room for another big addition.

Hunter’s role will be to give the Mets someone they can turn to even if it’s only temporary. It doesn’t seem to matter how many innings they need him for. Hunter has done nothing but impress and something tells me he’ll do the same this year, making his debut somewhere between May and July.

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