clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yankees re-sign Tommy Kahnle: Checking on media reactions to the deal

Aaron Judge is understandably the story today, but let’s peak at what people said about the Yankees’ reported reunion with old friend Kahnle.

League Championship Series - New York Yankees v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Around midmorning on Tuesday, news broke of the Yankees’ second free agent signing of the winter. While many fans at the time were understandably disappointed that it wasn’t that signing (not yet anyway), there’s no doubt that the Yankees are a stronger team after yesterday’s addition to the roster. That’s because New York officially signed Tommy Kahnle to a two-year deal to return to the Bronx.

It’s Kahnle’s third stint with the organization after originally being drafted by New York in the fifth round in the 2010 MLB Draft. He never made it to the majors his first go-around, eventually landing with the Rockies via the Rule 5 Draft, but after being traded to the Yankees alongside Todd Frazier and David Robertson in that famous 2017 swap with the White Sox, he stamped his mark on the team in his second stint in pinstripes.

Kahnle made 129 appearances across what added up to two-and-a-half seasons from 2017-20, tallying a 4.01 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 157 strikeouts in 112.1 innings pitched. And though he missed essentially all of 2020-21 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees apparently saw enough from his 12.2 innings of work with the Dodgers in 2022 to award him a two-year, $11.5 million contract.

He certainly flashed some of the Tommy Kahnle of old in his final appearances with LA. As Kevin and Josh noted in their earlier write-ups about the reunion with Kahnle, any discussion about the 33-year-old reliever starts with his changeup, and many others in the media echoed this sentiment.

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake has made a concerted effort to disseminate the changeup across the Yankees pitching staff, so the prospect of him linking up with one of the best changeup-throwers in the game is intriguing to say the least. Kahnle threw one of if not the best offspeed pitches in 2019 (his last full season), the pitch inducing the highest strikeout rate of any changeup in baseball while placing ninth in Statcast’s Run Value and tenth in whiff rate. And it’s actually a two-way street — the Yankees pitching room is known to foster a collaborative atmosphere, so it’s not unreasonable to hope that guys like Ron Marinaccio and Wandy Peralta can improve their offspeed pitches through conversations with Kahnle.

The consensus seems to be that the Yankees conducted a shrewd bit of business in bringing Kahnle back, especially when you consider other deals signed by relievers this winter.

For example, hard-throwing righty reliever Carlos Estévez recently signed a two-year, $13.5 million pact with the Angels. Estévez was a decent mid-tier relief option for the Rockies the last two seasons, but never approached the ceiling Kahnle displayed in 2019, so getting Kahnle for one million less per year feels like a steal, especially when you consider his arm has two fewer years of mileage on it stemming from the TJS rehab.

Kahnle could not come at a better time considering two of the Yankees more relied-upon lefty relievers of the last few years — Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton — have left in free agency. His stinginess against lefties may prove invaluable following the departure of that pair of southpaws.

Kahnle’s outsized personality made him an instant fan-favorite, and by all accounts he was well-liked in the clubhouse. We’ve seen some dour personalities pass through the Bronx in recent years, so adding his energy to the team could inject a levity that might help surmount stretches of adversity such as the one the team experienced in the second half.

This offseason and the Yankees’ mid-term future revolve around Aaron Judge. As Hal Steinbrenner noted in his year-end press conference, a large part of the Yankees’ pitch to Judge involved other moves they could make in addition to potentially bringing him back. Having been swept in the ALCS by the bogeyman Astros, bringing Judge back as the sole piece of business this winter constitutes at best a lateral move.

If I were in Judge’s shoes, I would’ve wanted assurances that the front office would attempt to surround him with as much talent as possible to finally get over the postseason hump. Adding Kahnle — while also bringing back Anthony Rizzo in November — at least represented a small step in that direction. They $360 million guarantee that Judge received today was obviously essential to him returning, but steps like these help as well.

Kahnle’s impact on the team goes beyond what he can do on the field. The Red Sox were reportedly pushing hard to sign the righty reliever, which is no surprise given the decrepit state of their bullpen. Overriding a move to a division rival may prove nearly as valuable as what he produces on the mound.

And finally, as our old friend Dan Kelly astutely notes, the Yankees’ 40-man roster is now full with Kahnle’s addition, so if they want to be active participants in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft (and, you know, add Judge back to the 40-man), they will need to clear space on the roster to do so and potentially risk losing that removed player to waivers.

Welcome home, Thunder Thighs! Let’s hope this go-around with the Bombers is just as good, if not better, than the last!