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Bounceback Relief Arm Prime Candidate to Upgrade Phillies Bullpen

Free agent reliever Tommy Kahnle is a strong bounce-back candidate for the Philadelphia Phillies to consider.

Since Dave Dombrowski took over as the Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations, he has taken his chances with a number of bounce-back candidates for the bullpen. 

In December 2020, he placed a bet that José Alvarado could return to his 2018 form after two injury-riddled seasons. He took a similar gamble on Corey Knebel the following winter. This year, if he’s looking for another reliever with bounce-back potential, he should give serious consideration to 33-year-old right-hander Tommy Kahnle.  

Kahnle’s last full season was in 2019, when he threw 61.1 innings with a 3.67 ERA for the Yankees. He struck out nearly 13 batters per nine and finished with the 15th-best strikeout-to-walk ratio among qualified AL relievers.

The following year, Kahnle threw only a single inning before landing on the injured list. He required Tommy John surgery, and he sat out the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Kahnle returned in May 2022 with the Dodgers, only to land back on the IL after just four games. Forearm pain kept him out until September. 

When he finally returned, however, Kahnle looked good. Excellent, in fact. In 8.2 IP, he struck out nine batters and walked only one. Most importantly, his fastball velocity was back up to 96-97 mph. When he was dealing with forearm inflammation, his velocity was down at 94-95 mph.

He looked good enough in September that he earned a spot on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster — a roster that fellow free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel failed to make. Dave Roberts used Kahnle in three of four NLDS games, demonstarting in his trust in the veteran right-hander. 

Kahnle elected free agency this November, and reports suggest he's already receiving attention from several teams. Jon Heyman of the New York Post has reason to believe more than ten clubs have already expressed interest.

Simply put, the Phillies should be one of those teams. They need relievers, and Kahnle fits the description of the bounce-back pitcher Dombrowski loves to sign. 

Signing Kahnle will be a risk. But it’s a risk worth taking. 

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