Yankees took a big risk in the bullpen with $12M signing

tommy kahnle, yankees
Oct 15, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle (44) pitches in the seventh inns against the San Diego Padres during game four of the NLDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have arguably one of the best bullpens in baseball, but they haven’t done much to improve the unit further despite losing several big names this off-season.

Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Miguel Castro have all walked in free agency, but considering they won’t have Scott Effross for the 2023 season, having undergone Tommy John surgery, they could use additional proven relief pitchers.

The closest they’ve gotten to proven is Tommy Kahnle, a familiar face who’s once again taking his talents back to the Bronx. Kahnle has only pitched 13.2 innings over the last three years combined.

Having recovered from Tommy John surgery last year, he made 13 appearances with the Los Angeles Dodgers to close the season, accruing 12.2 innings of action. He earned a 2.84 ERA, 3.14 xFIP, 9.95 strikeouts per nine, and an 85.4% left-on-base rate. He did give up a few homers in that span, allowing 1.42 per nine innings. Despite the small sample size, Kahnle has decent stuff that should help smooth over some medium-leverage innings for the Bombers next season.

The Yankees did take a risk signing Tommy Kahnle:

Kahnle signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal, which some may coin as overpriced. Having barely pitch over the last three seasons, the 33 old bullpen arm is certainly earning a pretty penny for his lack of action.

The last time he pitched over 50 innings was back in 2019 with the Yankees at 29 years old. He recorded a 3.67 ERA, 12.91 strikeouts per nine, and a 73.5% left-on-base rate. He had a home run issue in his past, which popped up again in 2022 with the Dodgers.

However, it seems as if his velocity has returned to relative normalcy at 95.6 mph. In 2018 with the Yankees, it average out at 95.3 mph but jumped to 96.6 in 2019. He primarily uses a change-up and 4-seam fastball combination. With LA, his change-up produced a .094 average against and a 36% whiff rate. His fastball landed at .286 against with a 14.3% whiff rate.

Of course, the sample size is small, but he interestingly used his change-up about 76% of the time. Back in 2019, it was near an even split between his fastball and change, so we could see his usage shift under Matt Blake.

Nonetheless, $11.5 million for a pitcher coming off a significant injury is certainly an optimistic contract, but if he can return to his normal self, there’s no doubt Kahnle has plenty of value.