Phillies developing rough track record with free agent relievers

Tommy Hunter, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Tommy Hunter, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

The Phillies have attempted to support their bullpen via free agency in free agency, but it has, by and large, backfired on them.

The Phillies bullpen got more bad news Tuesday as manager Gabe Kapler said that reliever Tommy Hunter would miss the rest of the season following surgery to repair his flexor tendon. Injuries have limited him to just five games this year, and his time as a Phillie is likely over.

Hunter signed a two-year, $18 million contract before the 2018 season. His numbers were okay but not great for relievers over the last two years with a 3.50 ERA and 1.183 WHIP in 70 games. With no options next year and Hunter coming off season-ending surgery at 33 years old, it’s hard to imagine him coming back.

As a whole, Hunter didn’t make much of an impact during his time as a Phillie. This is becoming part of a more significant, more worrisome trend developing around relievers the Phillies sign.

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The first time Neshek signed here, it was a great move. He had a 1.12 ERA in 43 games, making him Philadelphia’s lone All-Star in 2017. After being traded to Colorado and reaching free agency after the season, it only made sense to bring Neshek back. However, the second time around has not gone so well.

Neshek missed the entire first half of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury. He came back in the second half and pitched well, but it was too little, too late.

Injuries are once again holding him back as he has spent almost all of the last two months on the injured list with a shoulder and hamstring strain.

Neshek has a $7 million club option for next year, but like Hunter, there’s no guarantee Neshek will return. He will turn 39 Sept. 4 and his injuries the last two years make picking up that option questionable at best. On top of that, he has a 5.00 ERA and 6.17 fielding-independent pitching in 20 games this year, easily the worst of his career for quite some time.

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While David Robertson is only in the first year of his contract, it’s already not looking great for the team. He made only seven appearances with a 5.40 ERA before landing on in the injured list with elbow soreness. The last we heard from Robertson, he was eyeing a return in late July, but there has been no word on a rehab assignment.

All three of the big-time relievers the Phillies signed in the last two years have produced average results at best. They all have suffered from various injuries on top of that, only making their contracts look that much worse.

The lack of production from Hunter, Neshek, and Robertson puts more pressure on the rest of the bullpen.

As you know if you have watched the team at all this year, they have not been able to pick up the slack. Only the Mariners bullpen ranks worse in Fangraphs wins above replacement. The starting rotation is struggling as well, but the bullpen is the real weak link.

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Without much homegrown talent, the bullpen needs external help either from free agency or trades. These contracts could make Philadelphia more hesitant in pursuing other free-agent relievers in the coming years, putting the relief corps in a real bind/