The Twins have sold the contractual rights of right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter links).
The move will benefit both sides, as it clears a 40-man roster spot for the Twins and gives Tonkin the opportunity to land a significantly larger payday than he’d have received in the United States; he’ll sign a two-year, $2.1MM contract with the Fighters, per Berardino. The Wasserman client will also have the opportunity to earn an additional $500K worth of “reachable” incentives, and he’ll have the chance to serve as the Fighters’ closer as well.
Tonkin, 28 later this month, was one of the top-rated relief prospects in the Twins’ system for several years but has yet to capitalize on that promise in the Major League level. He’s received multiple opportunities with the Twins, appearing for the big league club in each of the past five seasons but never seizing a permanent session in the club’s bullpen. In 146 1/3 innings with the Twins, Tonkin has pitched to a 4.43 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.54 HR/9 and a 39.9 percent ground-ball rate. He has, however, consistently dominated the Triple-A level, pitching to a 2.41 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 through 160 1/3 innings.
The move will subtract yet another player from the Twins’ 40-man roster and, according to Berardino, net the Twins more than $500K in addition to the 40-man spot. In the past week, the Twins have lost left-hander Randy Rosario to the Cubs, outfielder Daniel Palka to the White Sox and left-hander Nik Turley to the Pirates (all via waivers). Once Tonkin’s move to the Fighters is complete, Minnesota’s 40-man roster will stand at 33 players. Major League teams have until Nov. 20 to set their 40-man roster in advance of next month’s Rule 5 Draft, so the Twins could yet shed another player or two in advance of that deadline to clear room for additional prospects to be protected.