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Time To Give Michael Tonkin A Shot

Bounced between the minors and majors for three years now, Michael Tonkin has nothing left to prove.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, it was no secret that the Twins had some issues with their bullpen. Even before Glen Perkins' fade to black, the team was forced to rely on Aaron Thompson and Blaine Boyer early in the year because no one else really stepped up. Casey Fien was hurt and watched his strikeout rate plummet, and once the Twins realized they weren't going anywhere in the playoff race, they finally started addressing their hole in the 'pen. First it was moving Trevor May out of the rotation. Then, it was acquiring Kevin Jepsen at the non-waiver trade deadline. Finally, they struck a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers and got some lefthanded help when they received Neal Cotts.

Getting more help in the bullpen is a big target for the Twins this winter to fix a squad that was 21st in reliever ERA, 24th in reliever FIP, and dead last in reliever strikeouts. It's so important, in fact, that Jesse went out and traded for four relievers in the SB Nation offseason simulation. Now, I doubt that we can expect the Twins to be that active this winter, but there are certainly cheap and expensive options available on the free agent market as well.

Before looking outside the organization, though, I think one of the first moves the Twins should make is to look no further than their own 40-man roster with Michael Tonkin. Since debuting as a 23-year old in 2013, the 6'7" Tonkin has been bounced up and down from Rochester, never tallying more than 26 appearances or 23 1/3 innings at the big league level in a single season. This is despite the fact that he averages 94 MPH with his fastball with hard sinking and tailing action, which has allowed him to get a decent number of ground balls. In his limited time, Tonkin has the following stats: 3.35 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 7.55 K/9, 3.02 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9, and .250 batting average allowed. Though not the numbers of a dominant reliever, those are certainly adequate. Admittedly his FIP is a little high, but that's mainly caused by an issue with the gopher ball that he experienced last season.

Even if those numbers don't particularly excite you, it's Tonkin's velocity and stuff that makes him a more interesting candidate than bringing back Boyer or relying on an A.J. Achter. Plus, he utterly dominated his minor league competition last year, as he posted a 1.10 ERA and 1.99 FIP in 41 innings, mainly thanks to striking out over 10 hitters per 9 innings. In 2014, he accomplished solid numbers as well with a 2.80 ERA, 2.82 FIP, and just over a strikeout per inning. While a minor league reliever racking the strikeouts may bring back memories of Anthony Slama, I can assure you that Tonkin's stuff matches his results, something that Slama could not boast.

It's very likely that the Twins will make one or two moves this winter to address the bullpen, whether by a signing or a trade. However, with Tonkin's stuff and minor league dominance, he could prove to be a cheap yet high-reward addition to the bullpen for 2016.