Entering 2017, Tommy Kahnle’s closest connection to the Yankees was being a former farmhand turned effective reliever for other teams. Kahnle was a 5th round draft pick for New York in 2010, but never made it to the 40-man roster. After the Rockies poached him in the Rule-5 draft back in 2013, Kahnle would play two seasons for Colorado before a trade sent him to the Chicago White Sox.
There, he would begin to develop into a legitimate bullpen piece. In 2016, Kahnle posted a 2.63 ERA but struggled with command, giving up 20 walks to 25 strikeouts. It was in 2017 that Kahnle had his breakout season, striking out 60 batters in 36 innings for Chicago. Kahnle’s rapid development into a power pitcher, coupled with the arbitration years ahead of him, made him a prime target for Brian Cashman.
Cashman jumped into negotiations with the White Sox on July 18, and that night worked out a trade centered on bringing Kahnle to the Bronx, alongside former Yankee closer David Robertson and Todd Frazier. Kahnle’s inclusion in the trade wound up costing the Yanks a top prospect in Blake Rutherford, but the depth at outfield made Cashman comfortable with the move.
Kahnle’s regular season with New York was a bag of mixed results. He started off strong, with a 2.48 ERA, 18 strikeouts and no walks in July. August, however, brought a 5.23 ERA and a shrinking strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2:1.
It wasn’t until the postseason that Kahnle’s value became evident. He was dominant, as he didn’t allow an earned run in his first six appearances across 10 innings. He inherited 10 runners upon entering the game in October, and stranded nine of them, the lone run coming in clean-up duty in Game 3 of the ALCS. Game 7 against Houston marred his overall postseason stats, but he became a trusted option for Joe Girardi throughout the playoffs.
With a major development year behind him, Kahnle projects to be a crucial piece of the bullpen in the next few years, and a relatively inexpensive one too. Combined with the likes of Robertson, Dellin Betances and Chad Green, Kahnle will help form the formidable bridge to Aroldis Chapman in the Yankees’ bullpen hierarchy.