LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Before this week, the Phillies had not awarded a multiyear deal to a pitcher for four years. They struck two such deals in the span of two days at baseball’s annual winter meetings.
Veteran righthander Tommy Hunter was “closing in” on a deal with the Phillies, according to a source. He would join Pat Neshek, who agreed in principle to a two-year, $16.25 million deal earlier this week.
Hunter, 31, could become the Phillies’ closer — a job filled by Hector Neris. Or the Phillies could keep Neris in that role while deploying Hunter in the eighth inning and Neshek in the seventh. Both Matt Klentak and Gabe Kapler spoke Tuesday about a desire for flexibility in their bullpen, so that could lead to fewer defined roles.
Both the Hunter and Neshek acquisitions follow the Phillies’ stated plan to somehow upgrade the pitching staff. The current cost for starting pitching on both the free-agent and trade market is too great for the Phillies. So they have focused on the bullpen.
Hunter had a 2.61 ERA in 58 2/3 innings with Tampa Bay last season. He began his career as a starter for Baltimore but found greater success in the bullpen. He has a 3.12 ERA in 280 games as a reliever over the last five seasons.