The Yankees made another signing, and this time it was for someone that can play baseball! Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic broke the news:
Welcome back, Tommy Kahnle!!! The Yankees signed him away from the Red Sox for 2 years, $11 million at an even $5.75 million AAV.
As Yankee fans will recall, this will be Kahnle's 3rd stint in the Yankee organization, with his previous stint his most successful following his inclusion in the 2017 trade deadline deal that brought him, David Robertson, and Todd Frazier to the Bronx. While Kahnle's overall numbers from his previous stint look a bit ho-hum (inflated due to a poor 2018 season), Kahnle was electric in both 2017 following the trade and again in 2019, both years in which the Yankees had one of the best bullpens in the sport.
Kahnle's last year in pinstripes ended with a torn UCL and Tommy John Surgery. In fact, he only just made it back on a mound in 2022 for 13 appearances with the Dodgers. While the sample size was small, Kahnle was electric again, with a 2.84 ERA, 14 strikeouts in 12.2 innings pitched, and a stunningly good 0.632 WHIP.
Kahnle was one of only two free agent relief pitchers in whom I had any interest this offseason. The other was Rafael Montero, but the Astros didn't let him get to the open market and signed him to a long-term extension during the exclusive negotiation window.
Kahnle took a long time to recover from Tommy John Surgery, and missed significant time in 2022 to a bone bruise in the same elbow. However, once recovered from the bone bruise, it's not an exaggeration to say that Kahnle was one of the best relief pitchers in the sport.
Statcast indicates that the performance wasn't fluky, either. Kahnle sat in the mid-90s with his fastball and his change-up was better than ever. With an increased percentage of change-ups thrown, Kahnle allowed an exit velocity of just 82.3 MPH, and his xwOBA (.242) very closely matched his wOBA (.240), indicating that his elite performance was backed up by the underlying metrics. In addition to producing silly numbers with the change-up, Kahnle located it well also:
Assuming his elbow is healthy, there's very little in his performance that suggests he won't be an elite reliever. The recent injury history, but his $5.75 AAV reflects that risk.
I love the deal at this price. The Yankees desperately needed a reliever that could fill the Chad Green role, as it was sorely missed in the dog days of summer and in the playoffs last season. Kahnle is a pit bull on the mound and has performed well in pressure-packed, playoff situations in the past. For reference, Kahnle will make less than Isiah Kiner-Falefa this season and next.
A signing like this fits the bullpen budget, with bigger expenditures on the way in the outfield. The Yankees are very likely to receive elite performance at a price that will have little impact on the budget elsewhere. This was a smart move by the Yankees, and I like that they were willing to outbid others (like the Red Sox) to make this move.
Now let's outbid some other teams on some bigger fish.