Mets Monday Morning GM: Underrated free agent signing already showed his value

A smaller free agent signing by the Mets had one of the better debuts.

Mar 16, 2024; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA;  New York Mets starting pitcher Michael Tonkin (51)
Mar 16, 2024; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Michael Tonkin (51) / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

It took only one game for the New York Mets to ask Michael Tonkin to do what he did so well in 2023 with the Atlanta Braves. Signed for a modest $1 million for the 2024 season, Tonkin is coming off a year where he tossed 80 innings in 45 innings for the NL East winning Braves.

Long men in the bullpen can sometimes become some of the more well-loved on a Major League Baseball roster. Seth Lugo. Trevor Williams. If you can go more than one inning in relief for the Mets, the fans are going to love you.

Tonkin went two on Opening Day while facing just one over the minimum. Fan favorite? Not yet. But the length he can provide the Mets is going to become valuable if it remains sustainable.

Michael Tonkin going more than an inning at a time will sustain the Mets bullpen

Two concerns are eased slightly if Tonkin has another 45 game, 80 inning performance in 2024. Although this accounts for only about one-fourth of the team’s games, having him regularly eat up an extra frame at a time will provide the club with a little extra rest for his relief pitching colleagues. The club’s alarming lack of optional pitchers (only Tylor Megill from the Opening Day roster) puts them against an immediate wall when it comes to calling someone up or sending down someone who isn’t performing good enough to keep his MLB roster spot.

Tonkin was the second man out of the bullpen for the Mets, pitching the seventh and eighth. Carlos Mendoza used him in a predictable way. Drew Smith entered in the fifth to get out of a jam created by starter Jose Quintana and remained in the game for another inning. It was Tonkin who efficiently got through two innings and spared the Mets from having to go the one-inning-at-a-time route we see often in the game.

Most of Tonkin’s appearances last year for Atlanta came with two or three days of rest. Curiously, the ERAs for both weren’t exceptional. A 4.56 ERA on two days of rest and even worse of 4.95 on three days looks bad but maybe it’s a bit deceptive. He still held batters to a .218 batting average on two days rest and an even lower .213 on three days. One season of this isn’t enough to really weigh how he’ll do for the Mets and the fact that one contradicts the other could be the result of some bad luck along the way.

Tonkin isn’t a guy we should hope to see elevate himself in the Mets bullpen. His job is to save Mendoza from having to turn to one of the “stoppers” in a game where the Mets might not necessarily need them.