Yankees claim veteran reliever off of waivers to boost bullpen depth

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees announced today that they have claimed reliever Michael Tonkin off of waivers from the New York Mets. He was originally designated for assignment earlier in the month, with the Minnesota Twins picking him up as a waiver claim. Once they DFA’d him, he was claimed by the Mets again, and this will be the third team he’s on in the early season. As a corresponding move, the Yankees have designated McKinley Moore for assignment, all of which has been announced by the team officially.

In his time with the Twins and Mets over the season, he has a 6.00 ERA in nine innings, striking out 23.9% of batters faced with a 44.2% groundball rate.

Michael Tonkin Claimed By the Yankees as Bullpen Depth

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Mets
Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

There are some interesting aspects of Tonkin’s repertoire, as he throws from a lower arm slot, and that causes him to get some unique movement profiles. Despite standing in at 6’7, he has a 5.25 release height on his four-seamer and a 5.14 release height on his sinker, and his sidearm action could prove to be valuable to a bullpen. The problem for him has been the long ball, as he’s allowed a 1.49 HR/9 across 192 appearances in his MLB career.

A 3.70 SIERA and 23.1% strikeout rate in his career have kept him on bullpen depth charts, but the inability to command reliably in-zone has burnt him at every step of his career. He could be a pitcher who benefits from utilizing matchup data more to overwhelm hitters, platooning his sweeper usage based on righty/lefty matchups but the problem has been that none of his pitches have been effective outside of his gyro slider.

The four-seamer was supposed to be a new weapon for him up in the zone, but it hasn’t been able to do the job, and his sinker-heavy approach last season has gone away. Perhaps the Yankees get him more to his 2023 pitch usage, throwing his sinker and gyro slider nearly 99% of the time and getting good results on those pitches. He might also benefit from just being a slider-first arm, as the pitch is extremely effective to any kind of hitter.

Dating back to 2023, the 34-year-old has generated a 30.8% Whiff Rate and .233 wOBA on his slider, which has plenty of dropping action and generates soft contact as well. He’ll still need something he can throw with velocity to keep hitters from teeing off on a hanging slider, but it’s hard to figure out what that could be.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Boone needs more options to go to in his bullpen as the Yankees have a slog of games coming up with no days off until the end of the Detroit Tigers series in the Bronx. That means they won’t see another off day until May 6th, which is nightmare fuel for a bullpen that’s already stretched thin. Michael Tonkin may not be some young fireballer who you can pencil in as the next Matt Blake success story, but he is someone who can mop up innings for you and can easily be DFA’d if you need a fresh arm.

Tonkin is out of Minor League options, so the Yankees would have to designate him for assignment if they wanted to shuffle him out of the bullpen.

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