The Yankees kick off the Winter Meeting bringing back one of their most beloved relievers from the Baby Bomber Yankees in Tommy Kahnle. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that it’ll be a two-year deal at $11.5 million ($5.75 million AAV), which is a low-cost deal for a pitcher with plenty of upside. Riddled with injuries in 2022, Kahnle only pitched in 13 games, but he did so with great success. With a 2.84 ERA and 30.4% K%, Tommy Kahnle showed he still has the swing-and-miss stuff he showed in his time with the Yankees.
With a reunion in place, how do the Yankees plan on using Tommy Kahnle?
Changing Things Up for the Yankees
With Tommy Kahnle in the bullpen the Yankees have a versatile weapon who can handle both left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. While he has a blistering fastball at 95.8 MPH, getting 16.2″ of Induced Vertical Break means it’s not going to be a pitch to rely upon 50% of the time. Kahnle used his changeup a whopping 76.4% of the time, which makes sense considering it’s such a dominant pitch. Batters hit just .094 and whiffed 36% of the time, which when paired with a -14° Launch Angle against it’s no surprise he uses it so much
His changeup is a unique one in the sense that very few changeups generate that much drop at 89.8 MPH, and batters don’t really know what to do with it. They either roll over for a soft groundball or swing over the top of it, and it’s a pitch that works extremely well against both LHBs and RHBs. That versatility is important since the Yankees already have a strong backend of the bullpen, so having versatile high-leverage middle-relief options is a massive advantage. While his fastball isn’t a great pitch, it still serves a purpose as a show pitch in his arsenal, and perhaps with improved command with a fully healthy offseason we could see Kahnle’s fastball perform better.
Kahnle’s simplified his pitch-mix to two pitches, and while he featured a slider with the Yankees, it seems this simplification should yield the best results for Tommy Tightpants.
What To Expect From Tommy Kahnle in 2023
Projections absolutely adore Tommy Kahnle for someone who’s coming off an injury-riddled season. Steamer views Kahnle as a strong middle-relief option for the bullpen, and that’s very encouraging for a player’s median (AKA most likely) outcome:
- Steamer 2023 Projections
- 3.56 ERA
- 3.54 FIP
- 3.54 xFIP
- 60 IP
- 17.4% K-BB%
If the Yankees get 60 IP from Kahnle in 2023, it’ll make the $5.75 million Luxury Tax hit in 2023 seem like a steal, and his stuff should only improve with time to recover in the offseason. He posted a 110.8 Stuff+ in 2022 despite inconsistent velocity and two outings where his velocity would indicate he may have been pitching hurt, as following outings on May 11th and May 13th where he was averaging 94.6 (over a tick below his 2022 average FB velo) he hit the IL until mid-September.
There’s obviously injury risk with Kahnle, as there’s a real chance he’s injury-riddled and barely contributes over the next two seasons, but that’s a risk you take with this bullpen. The Yankees can shoulder the burden of losing Kahnle, and if he hits his upside you could see a top 20-30 reliever in an already loaded Yankee bullpen. He’ll be joining Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, Michael King, Ron Marinaccio, and Lou Trivino, who were all remarkable for the Bronx Bombers. It doesn’t hurt to bolster a strength, and there’s just something special about bringing back a well-loved energetic player to the clubhouse.