Update (8:40 PM ET): Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Hunter’s contract with the Phillies is for two years.
There’s been a bit of confusion at the Winter Meetings. First, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Phillies were close to signing free agent reliever Addison Reed. That report was then disputed by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer then reported that not only do the Phillies not have a deal with Reed, they’re actually moving in on a deal with free agent pitcher Tommy Hunter. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic backed up Gelb’s report, as did Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.
Hunter, 31, spent the past season with the Rays, posting a 2.61 ERA with a 64/14 K/BB ratio across 58 2/3 innings. The right-hander, a veteran of 10 seasons in the majors, should be a good addition to the Phillies’ bullpen, which also recently added Pat Neshek. Neshek and Hunter will likely work the innings just ahead of closer Hector Neris.
As for Reed, well, who knows.
Marc Carig of The Athletic reports that the Mets have interviewed Dave Littlefield to fill the club’s GM vacancy. The position hasn’t exactly been a popular one for potential candidates, with many preemptively taking their name out of consideration.
Littlefield, 58, was the Pirates’ GM between 2001-07. It didn’t exactly go well. The club never won more than 75 games during his tenure. Littlefield was also infamous for the 2003 Rule 5 draft in which he carelessly left several valuable players unprotected, including Chris Shelton and José Bautista. Littlefield was also criticized for trades he made (e.g. Aramis Ramírez) and for trades he didn’t make (e.g. Kris Benson for Ryan Howard).
In the time since, Littlefield worked as a scout for the Cubs, then for the Tigers. Since 2015, he has worked as the vice president of player development for the Tigers. Littlefield’s successor, Neal Huntington, went on to have more success which didn’t help Littlefield’s cause any. Huntington was also comparatively much more open to analytics.
The Mets’ interest in Littlefield isn’t surprising. There are plenty of up-and-coming GM candidates — like Ben Cherington — the Mets could target, but Fred Wilpon (pictured above) want that. They want someone malleable who will adhere to payroll constrictions. Mets ownership’s involvement is an issue for the younger, analytics-oriented executives, Matt Ehalt of The Record reported earlier this month. Ehalt wrote, “There are rumblings that several candidates with progressive, analytics-oriented approaches do not believe they will be able to operate as they please should they take the Mets job, according to a source. That hesitation played a factor in why former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington bowed out of the mix, per the source.”
You have to feel bad for Mets fans, who seem relegated to having to root for a middling ballclub once again. And you have to feel bad for the likes of Brandon Nimmo, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, who will once again have to perform for a team that doesn’t have competing as its chief priority.