The Detroit Tigers are one of three teams rumored to be interested in free agent setup man Tommy Hunter, according to a report out of Baltimore.
The Detroit Tigers addressed one big bullpen need last week when they acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez in a trade with the Brewers, but they still have need for more reliable arms if the organization hopes the bullpen can be anything other than a glaring weakness again in 2016.
Apropos that need, the Tigers are rumored to be interested in setup man Tommy Hunter. Rich Dubroff of CSN Mid-Atlantic reports that three teams in particular are looking at the free agent right-hander.
"Teams that have shown some interest are the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and the San Diego Padres."
Hunter converted from starting to relief full-time in 2013 and put up two very strong seasons (ERA of 2.81 and 2.97 in 2013 and 2014 respectively) before fading a bit last year (a season ERA of 4.18).
Hunter, who will turn 30 next July, has shown good velocity out of the bullpen. He has averaged 96 mph on his fastball each of the last three seasons, but he hasn’t been able to parlay that velocity into even an average strikeout rate. For his career as a reliever, Hunter has struck out 19.4% of the batters he’s faced. League average strikeout rate for relievers in 2015 was 22.1%.
Where Hunter does excel, however, is in limiting free passes to first base via the base on balls. Hunter has issued a walk to only 5.1% of the batters he has faced as a reliever (compared to 8.6% league average).
Hunter would make sense for the Tigers as a low-cost bullpen option, but he doesn’t appear to be a slam-dunk to have a solid season. His 2016 Steamer Projection is for a 3.43 ERA which is fine, if unspectacular, for a reliever. That’s bit above average but not close to dominating.
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The FanGraphs crowd projects him to sign for a two years at $5 million per season, which wouldn’t break the bank, but the Detroit Tigers might be better off committing another year and a few extra million to snatch up Darren O’Day, who seems like a better bet to have another lock-down season. O’Day’s FanGraphs crowd projection is for three years and a total of $21 million.