It never really made sense at last year’s trade deadline when the Orioles dealt away right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Junior Lake.
Hunter was a pending free agent, was having a sub-par season and was making $4.65 million, so the Orioles parted ways with him for a fringe big leaguer, and dropped some salary.
The deal chafed a lot of the players inside the clubhouse because Hunter was a component of the club’s previous success and his big personality kept everyone loose.
I remember a game in Anaheim later that year when several Orioles were huddled around a TV rooting on Hunter as he pitched for the Cubs.
So the fact that the Orioles signed Hunter today and immediately put him on their 25-man roster speaks volumes about how trusted Hunter is by Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
It also speaks volumes about the erosion of the Orioles’ bullpen recently.
Hunter, 30, hasn’t had a particularly good year. He was released by the Cleveland Indians this past week while he was rehabbing a non-displaced fracture in his back that was caused when he fell at his home during the All-Star Break. He missed the first month of the regular season due to abdomen surgery.
His numbers when he did pitch with the Indians were fine – 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 21 games. He struck out 17 batters and walked five in 21 2/3 innings.
He’ll only cost the Orioles a prorated portion of the minimum salary, so this is a low-cost move, and one that brings in a familiar face with postseason experience to the bullpen.
It seemed like a no-brainer as soon as the Indians released Hunter.
With Hunter’s best pal, Darren O’Day injured, the bullpen needs reinforcements pronto, and it’s not like there’s a question about how Hunter will fit into team chemistry. Although he didn’t work out as a closer for the Orioles in 2014, and many fans booed him from time to time, Hunter was a pretty effective reliever for the club in the past.
So it’s definitely worth a shot to re-sign him. If he can’t pitch at a suitable level, you just cut him and move on.
The club also promoted right-hander Oliver Drake, Triple-A Norfolk’s closer, on Sunday and designated outfielder Julio Borbon and lefty T.J. McFarland for assignment.
McFarland has struggled with injury this year, but he’s always been a favorite of Showalter’s for his fearlessness and desire to take the ball whenever asked. If he clears waivers, he’ll return to Norfolk and, who knows, could be back up with the Orioles in September.
Borbon, 30, was recalled because the Orioles were concerned about Adam Jones’ left hamstring. Although Jones wasn’t in Sunday’s starting lineup, the concern must be minimal since Borbon is now off the roster.