Despite being probably the least famous name coming over in the 2017 trade with the White Sox, Tommy Kahnle was the one who was likely to have a long-term impact on the Yankees. Todd Frazier was a free agent after that season, and David Robertson would be as well after 2018.
Kahnle’s had his ups and downs since the trade, with the low being sent down and spending the majority of his 2018 season in Triple-A. However, he appears to have come out on the other side of that dark patch, rebounding with an excellent 2019.
2019 Statistics: 61.1 innings, 3.67 ERA, 88 strikeouts, 1.060 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.33 FIP, 1.1 fWAR
2020 Contract Status: Arbitration eligible
Kahnle did not make his first appearance of 2019 until the Yankees’ third game of the season. It quickly looked like not much had changed from his 2018 struggles, as he walked the bases loaded without recording an out. That outing would be a sign of things to come, just in a positive fashion. He then got three straight outs, striking out two, to strand all three runners.
His best stretch of the season came from mid-April to early May. On April 14th, he retired both batters he faced in a game against the White Sox. From that game up to and including his scoreless outing on May 5th, Kahnle threw a “hidden no-hitter.” In 11 straight outings including those two games, Kahnle threw exactly nine innings, allowing no hits and two walks, while striking out 13. That ended two days later, but his strong season continued.
On the other hand, his low point occurred toward the end of the season. Kahnle went into August with a 2.68 ERA. By the end of the season, that would be nearly a full run higher. In September, Kahnle threw 7.1 innings and allowed six runs in that time. Luckily for the Yankees, they mostly had the division in hand by that point.
In the playoffs, Kahnle was generally pretty solid, allowing two runs in eight innings across the eight games he pitched. His most impressive effort came in the Yankees’ Game Two loss in the ALCS. He relieved Adam Ottavino after the Astros had tied the game and threatened to do more in the fifth inning. Kahnle came in and struck out Yordan Alvarez to strand a pair of runners and end the fifth. He then threw another two perfect innings, while throwing 19 of 25 pitches for strikes.
While this isn’t exactly an on-field matter, 2019 also showed off Kahnle’s delightful goofiness. Never was that more evident than on September 1st. The Yankees trailed by four runs after seven innings and one after eight, only to score two in the ninth to rally and beat the Athletics. As Brett Gardner and Mike Ford went back-to-back to win the game, Kahnle was caught celebrating in the bullpen, and it was wonderful.
There was also the matter of his locker room antics following the Yankees clinching the AL East.
Following the 2018 season, there were legitimate doubts over whether Kahnle would be a relevant part of the Yankees’ bullpen again. The 2019 season seemed to answer that one, and it times, it was an emphatic answer.