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Dodgers add Tommy Kahnle to bullpen on a 2-year deal

Former Yankees RHP had Tommy John surgery in August

MLB: AUG 23 Yankees at Dodgers Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dodgers have agreed to terms with reliever Tommy Kahnle to a two-year contract, per multiple reports, adding a once-dominant right-hander who had Tommy John surgery in August.

Kahnle’s signing was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, and confirmed by Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. The deal, which hasn’t yet been announced by the Dodgers, is pending completion of a physical exam.

Kahnle only pitched in one game for the Yankees in 2020, striking out three in a scoreless inning. He later felt discomfort in his elbow, and an MRI revealed a tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. Kahnle had Tommy John surgery on August 4 in New York, three days before his 31st birthday. He also missed six weeks on the injured list in 2018 with shoulder tendonitis.

The Yankees outrighted Kahnle, who would have been eligible for salary arbitration this winter, off the 40-man roster in October, and he elected free agency.

From 2017-19 Kahnle had a 3.67 ERA and 2.83 FIP, the latter ranking 17th among all major league pitchers with at least 100 innings. He 35-percent strikeout rate in those three seasons ranked 10th. Fellow new Los Angeles reliever Corey Knebel, acquired in a December 2 trade with Milwaukee, ranked fourth (40.2 percent), fitting a theme with the Dodgers additions this offseason.

Kahnle (Tommy John), Knebel (Tommy John), Brandon Morrow (elbow), potentially Jimmy Nelson (shoulder, back), the latter two on minor league deals, were once dominant pitchers and all had surgeries in the recent past. Since Kahnle’s surgery was in August, his potential 2021 contributions would be very limited, and his contract is backloaded to reflect that.

The two-year deal is worth a guaranteed $4.75 million plus incentives, per both Jon Heyman and MLBcom’s Mark Feinsand, with the following payout:

$550,000 signing bonus
2021: $750,000
2022: $3.45 million

Since the start of 2018, Kahnle threw his changeup 48.4 percent of the time, second only to Luis Avilan among pitchers with at least 50 innings. Outside of Dylan Floro, the current Dodgers bullpen doesn’t really have someone who relies on the changeup, so adding Kahnle definitely brings a different look to the ‘pen.

It helps that Kahnle’s average changeup during that time is 89.6 mph, to go with his 96-mph fastball.

For the cost of a 40-man roster spot, until February when Kahnle can be placed on the 60-day injured list, the Dodgers get to have Kahnle rehabbing with the guidance of their medical team and training staff, with the potential benefit of a full 2022 season and possibly a chance at joining the bullpen down the stretch in 2021, if all breaks right.

Once the move becomes official, the Dodgers will have 38 players on their 40-man roster.