While he had his ups and down, Tommy Kahnle was mostly a very reliable bullpen arm for the Yankees from 2017 to 2020. After drafting him only to lose him via the Rule 5 draft, the Yankees got him back along with David Robertson and Todd Frazier in a big 2017 trade with the White Sox.
In that final season in 2020, Kahnle threw just one inning before being diagnosed with a torn UCL, requiring him to undergo Tommy John surgery. As it happened, 2020 was also the final year that he was under contract. With him set to miss all of 2021 and parts of 2022 after that, the Yankees understandably didn’t re-sign him after the 2020 season. He instead signed with the Dodgers, who inked him to a two-year deal, as he rehabbed in the first and returned in the second.
After 2022, Kahnle became a free agent again. With the Yankees in need of a potential high leverage reliever, they decided to sign Kahnle for a third stint in the organization, inking a two-year deal. In addition to being pretty good, he was by all accounts loved in the clubhouse for his general quirkiness, so it seemed like a perfectly good idea.
With year one of that deal in the books, let’s look back at Kahnle’s 2023.
2023 Statistics: 42 games, 40.2 innings pitched, 2.66 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 3.79 xFIP, 10.62 K/9, 4.20 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR
2024 Contract Status: Entering final season of two-year/$11.5 million contract
Like seemingly dozens of other Yankees, Kahnle had to start the season on the injured list after going down in spring training. A biceps injury kept him out until June 2nd, when he finally made his season debut.
Kahnle started out his season on fire, throwing 16.1 innings across 17 games without allowing an earned run and holding batters to just a .433 OPS. However, regression came pretty hard, as in his 18th game, he was dinged with three runs in a loss to the Rockies. (None actually came against him, but he put the runners on, having left the bases loaded.) Including that day, he put up a 10.80 ERA over his next six games. After that, things evened out for a bit, and Kahnle ended up putting up a perfectly respectable reliever’s season, featuring some fairly normal ups and downs.
The best part of his 2023 was that Kahnle still showed that he had good stuff.
He struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings and didn’t allow a ton of hard contact on average. The 86.8 average exit velocity allowed is right equal with fellow Yankee Michael King. His expected stats also showed that he arguably could’ve been better than his numbers suggest: ie a .288 xSLG vs. .331 actual SLG.
The one weak spot in his game last season was really the walks allowed. Kahnle’s 4.2 BB/9 tally wasn’t the worst of his career, but it is a bit higher than from say, his 2017 peak (2.4). The worst he got in that regard was a September 20th game, when he managed to walk in a run via four walks and two wild pitches in just 0.2 innings.
Going into 2024, there’s a bit of uncertainty with the Yankees’ bullpen. After a late season move to the rotation, King looks set to battle for a spot there this spring. Wandy Peralta is set to be a free agent. It’s unclear what entirely to expect from Jonathan Loáisiga after he dealt with injuries last season. The Yankees need some amount of stability beyond Clay Holmes next season, and hopefully Kahnle can provide that.