What a strange journey with the Yankees Tommy Kahnle has had.
He was drafted by the team way back in 2010, remaining with the team through 2013. That year, the Yankees left him exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, and he was picked up by the Rockies. With them and the White Sox, he became a good major league reliever, and it seemed like a real mistake to let him get away the way he did.
In 2017, he found his way back to the Yankees, coming with David Robertson and Todd Frazier in a trade with the White Sox. He was good with them, helping them go to the ALCS, but since then his career has been a roller coaster. Kahnle was very bad in 2018, leading him to spend a decent chunk of it in the minors. He bounced back with a solid 2019, and appeared to once again be the reliever the Yankees traded for.
Now after 2020, it appears as if the Yankees may have decided to end this particular roller coaster ride.
2020 Statistics: 1 game, 1.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.19 FIP, 0.19 xFIP, 27.0 K/9, 9.0 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR
2021 Contract Status: Free agent after being non-tendered
There’s not much to be said about Kahnle’s 2020 because, well, there wasn’t much of one. He came in and threw a scoreless eighth inning in a 3-2 win in the third game of the season.
Two days after that, he felt discomfort in his forearm during a workout, and after getting it looked at, it was revealed that he needed Tommy John surgery. He underwent it on August 4, officially ending his 2020 and ruling him out for most if not all of 2021. After the season, he declined an outright assignment, leading the Yankees to non-tender him.
The Yankees quite obviously missed him. Zack Britton was great. Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green were both pretty good, but other than those three, there wasn’t a ton of reliable options in the bullpen. There was a very obvious Kahnle-sized hole in the bullpen and losing out on him absolutely cost the Yankees to some degree.
Despite that, it does seem as if his Yankees career may be over. As mentioned, he’s a free agent after being non-tendered. It was understandable that the Yankees would try to assign him to the minors when he’s probably going to miss all of the final year he’s under team control. It’s also understandable that he would refuse it and just take his chances on the open market. Jon Heyman reported that he’s weighing up multiple different two-year deals that would allowed him to rehab in the first year and try and get back on track in the second. The Yankees may very well be among those teams, but they need more immediate help in the bullpen.
If this is it for him in New York, it’s been fun. In addition to his often very important pitching out of the bullpen, he is also a very amusing character. It would be a real shame for things to end like this.