Grading the Mets free agent signing of Michael Tonkin

Small moves can get big grades.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages
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The MLB Winter Meetings have been slower than expected. On the Monday of last year’s gathering, the New York Mets already agreed to a deal with Justin Verlander. It’s now Wednesday and many of the big free agents have yet to find new homes.

Tuesday did feature the Mets making a small yet significant move. They signed free agent reliever Michael Tonkin to a one-year deal worth $1 million. The perfect player to sign while in Nashville (Tonkin, Honky Tonk), he also happens to be ideal for the Mets roster.

There’s nothing to complain about with the Michael Tonkin signing

Tonkin is an interesting player. After spending a decade with the Minnesota Twins organization from 2008-2017, he found himself pitching over in Japan beginning with the 2018 season. He did return and toss a few innings in the minor leagues. This includes a stint with the Milwaukee Brewers then run by David Stearns. Tonkin even ended up with the Long Island Ducks twice and a trip to pitch for the Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League.

The man's passport has so much ink on it. He's a stamp away from TSA mistaking it for Post Malone.

Tonkin landed with the Atlanta Braves in 2022 where he spent the full season in Triple-A working mostly as a closer. Already in his age 32 season at the time, making it back to the majors seemed like a challenge. He got his shot in 2023 and Tonkin was pretty successful. He went 7-3 with a 4.28 ERA in 45 games for Atlanta. More notable was how he tossed 80 innings. A multi-inning piece for the Braves last year, the Mets should be hopeful they can get the same sort of innings eater performance from him in 2024.

At just $1 million, the Tonkin signing barely costs more than league minimum. This and nearly an average of two innings per appearance out of the bullpen last year already have the grade for this signing landing him on the honor roll.

Early grade: A-

Give this signing by the Mets an A-. The negatives are minimal. It does mean the team has one less spot for a more proven reliever. Tonkin’s lack of minor league options puts him in immediate peril from the moment he steps on the field to get designated for assignment.

There couldn’t be less risk with this signing with some great reward. Even if all Tonkin does is mop up games for the Mets as an approximate two innings per appearance guy, they’ve done a good job. Now let’s get some higher-leverage arms next.

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