Tonkin to play in Japan, clearing roster spot

Tonkin to play in Japan, clearing roster spot

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins are set to clear another 40-man roster spot, as reliever Michael Tonkin's contract will be sold to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league.

The move isn't official yet, but Tonkin is set to sign a two-year deal worth $2.1 million, according a report from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Tonkin, who was designated for assignment in May but returned to the roster as a September callup, wasn't eligible for arbitration until after next season, so it guarantees him more money than he would've made in the Majors.

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Tonkin, who turns 28 on Nov. 19, was a highly rated relief prospect, but he struggled to translate his Minor League success to the Majors in parts of five seasons with the Twins. He struck out 149 batters in 146 1/3 innings but posted a 4.43 ERA with 54 walks and 25 homers allowed.

Tonkin, though, has strong career numbers at Triple-A Rochester with a 2.41 ERA and 189 strikeouts in 160 1/3 innings over parts of four seasons. He had a 1.73 ERA in 41 2/3 innings at Triple-A this year, but a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings with the Twins. Tonkin has a fastball that averages 94 mph and a slider that averages 83 mph.

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The move marks the seventh roster space cleared by the Twins this offseason after lefty Nik Turley, reliever Randy Rosario and outfielder Daniel Palka departed via waivers, and catcher Chris Gimenez, lefty Ryan O'Rourke and Niko Goodrum were outrighted off the roster. Gimenez elected free agency, while O'Rourke and Goodrum were sent outright to Triple-A.

Additionally, right-handers Trevor May, Phil Hughes and J.T. Chargois were activated from the 60-day disabled list, giving the Twins seven open roster spots on their 40-man roster once the Tonkin move is official.

The Twins need those spots and could look to open up more space, as several of their Top 30 Prospects are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, including Stephen Gonsalves (No. 3), Kohl Stewart (9), Lewin Diaz (10), Lewis Thorpe (15), Zack Littell (16), Jake Reed (23) and Nick Burdi (28). Teams have until Nov. 20 to set their roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft in December.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.