The Phillies headed to the Winter Meetings in Orlando hoping to find some starting pitching. Instead, they’ve turned their sites to finding qualified relievers for the bullpen. On Monday, they announced that they have a deal in place with former Phillie Pat Neshek, who was dealt to the Rockies for three players last July. On Tuesday, they picked up another arm for the back of the bullpen and announced that they have a deal in place to sign right-hander Tommy Hunter.
Last season, the 31-year old pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays, putting up the best numbers of his career. In 61 relief appearances, Hunter pitched 58 2/3 innings with 64 strikeouts and just 14 walks on his way to a 2.61 ERA with the Rays.
Hunter attributed his success to an improved cutter which he threw more often than he did in the past. Over 10 major league seasons, Hunter has a 51-40 mark with 17 saves – 11 of which came with Baltimore in 2014 – and a 4.13 ERA. Phillies president Andy MacPhail is familiar with Hunter from his days in Baltimore.
It’s been four years since the Phillies have given a relief pitcher a multi-year contract, but they’ve now given out two on back-to-back days. Neshek got $16.5-million for two seasons with a club option for a third. Hunter’s deal is believed to be in the neighborhood of $17.75-million for two years, but the deal is still unofficial, although apparently done according to multiple reports.
Hunter and Neshek will join 28-year old Hector Neris at the back end of the Phillies bullpen. Neris posted a 2.79 ERA with 26 saves for the Phillies and was especially strong late in the season. Hunter will start as a setup guy and backup closer if Neris needs a day off or were to be struggling.
With neither the Neshek or Hunter deals being official, the Phillies still have two open spots on their 40-man roster in the event of a trade or to take a player or two in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.