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Yankees Bolster Bullpen With a Familiar Face, Signing Tommy Kahnle

Kahnle brings a boost in chemistry and a filthy changeup back to the Yankees' clubhouse, adding another piece to a dangerous bullpen.

SAN DIEGO — After two years behind enemy lines, working his way back from Tommy John surgery, Tommy Kahnle is back in pinstripes.

The Yankees signed the right-hander to a two-year deal in free agency on Tuesday, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The contract is worth $11.5 million, as first reported by Jon Heyman of the New York Post. 

Kahnle spent parts of four seasons with the Yankees, traded from the White Sox to New York in 2017, along with Todd Frazier and David Robertson. His last full season was in 2019, a campaign in which Kahnle made a career-high 72 appearances out of the Yankees' bullpen, posting a 3.67 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 61.1 innings pitched. 

His career took a turn during the pandemic-shortened season, though. Kahnle pitched one inning in 2020 before he landed on the injured list, learning that he needed Tommy John surgery to repair a right UCL injury. 

Kahnle, 33, went on to sign with the Dodgers, missing all of the 2021 season while rehabbing from the procedure. He made a triumphant return this past season, pitching to the tune of a 2.84 ERA over 13 outings with Los Angeles—missing a chunk of time this summer with right forearm inflammation—finishing the year on a high note. 

Injury concerns aside, if Kahnle can recapture his form in 2023, New York is adding another strong, high-leverage arm to the back of their bullpen. In a sense, the 'pen was low on New York's to-do list this offseason, a unit that was reliable throughout this past season, only scuffling down the stretch after some key injuries. 

Clay Holmes will enter the season as New York's closer after his All-Star campaign, Michael King is set to return from elbow surgery that prematurely ended his remarkable season last summer and a slew of arms—like Wandy Peralta, Jonathan Loáisiga, Ron Marinaccio, Lou Trivino—are poised to take a step forward next year. 

This signing helps to fill in after some departures and injuries as well. Scott Effross won't be available next year after Tommy John surgery, Miguel Castro signed with the Diamondbacks in free agency while Zack Britton, Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman could leave this offseason on the open market as well. 

Kahnle brings one of the best changeups in the sport to New York's 'pen as well. Back in 2019, opponents hit .130/.146/.203 (16-for-123) against that pitch with 67 strikeouts. The right-hander flashed some of his form with the changeup in 2022 with the Dodgers—hitters were 3-for-32 against the changeup with 12 strikeouts this year.

Finally, Kahnle will bring a commanding presence back to New York's clubhouse. The reliever was popular among his teammates during his tenure in pinstripes. Again, the injury narrative won't go away until Kahnle can prove he's able stay durable and distance himself from Tommy John, but the boost in chemistry while deepening the pitching staff is a smart risk for the Yankees to take. 


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