Even Tommy Kahnle admits he was terrible for the Yankees in 2018. Brian Cashman still needs to avoid the temptation to sell low on the talented reliever.
You don’t have to be a veteran MLB scout to know that Tommy Kahnle endured a horrible campaign for the Yankees last season. He was a shadow of the high-leverage reliever he was for New York back in 2017. That doesn’t mean it’s time to ship him out-of-town while his stock is at its low point.
Instead, the right course of action for Brian Cashman and company is to give Kahnle a chance to bounce back in 2019. Multiple teams are making calls to the Yankees about the right hander’s potential availability, but it’s highly unlikely anyone is going to make New York an offer really worth considering.
Kahnle is coming off a disappointing season where he threw just over 23 innings with an ugly ERA of 6.56. In fairness to the 29-year-old pitcher, he battled injury for most of the season. He went on the disabled list with shoulder tendonitis in April and never was able to get his game back on track. The most troubling aspect of the injury was that it took several miles per hours away from Kahnle’s fastball. He went from running it up there in the high-90s to struggling to sneak the pitch by quality hitters in the low to mid-90s. That’s a crucial difference for a pitcher like Kahnle.
The hope for the Yankees and Kahnle is that an offseason of quality rest will put his shoulder issues behind him. If he can get his fastball back to where it was during 2017, the Yankees could have a potential All-Star reliever on their hands. He was excellent for the White Sox and New York during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. There’s a reason why he was such a trusted member of the bullpen for the Yankees’ 2017 postseason run.
We might advocate a different strategy with Kahnle if the Yankees bullpen was stocked full of talent for the 2019 season. Both Zach Britton and David Robertson are major risks to leave in free agency. They might return or be replaced with free agents, but there are ample roster spots available to take a calculated risk on Kahnle returning to his best form.
In the end, the Yankees should give Kahnle every opportunity to return to the fine form he showcased two seasons ago. They can’t head into Spring Training with total trust in Kahnle to be a high-leverage setup guy, but selling him for peanuts now would be a poor move by Cashman. Instead, the Yankees should head into 2019 with the intention of giving Kahnle another shot to establish himself as an important part of Aaron Boone’s bullpen.