2021 was a year of patience for Tommy Kahnle and the Dodgers, with both seeking rewards in 2022.
Kahnle had Tommy John surgery in August 2020 while with the Yankees, and entered the free agent market last offseason as someone who was unlikely to contribute much, if even at all, in 2021. The Dodgers signed the right-hander to a two-year contract with $4.75 million, knowing that 2022 would be the payoff.
“It’s whatever’s best for me,” Kahnle told Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times in January. “The thing is just to get me back to where I was. So, if I’m not there, I’m not going to try to rush it. But I would hope to pitch by the end of the year.”
What the Dodgers are looking for from Kahnle is something like his performance from 2017-19, when he had a 3.67 ERA, 2.83 FIP, and a 35-percent strikeout rate that ranked 10th in the majors. The caveat is Kahnle is now 32 and on opening day next year will have pitched one total inning in the previous two seasons.
Even that solid three-year run by Kahnle included a 2018 season that saw him miss six weeks with shoulder tendinitis in a year with a 6.56 ERA and 4.19 FIP in 24 games, about a third of his normal output. Such is life for relievers; volatility is part of the job.
From a bullpen-building standpoint, trying to stockpile as many quality arms as possible is the way to go, and figure out who sticks along the way. Kahnle, along with his fellow Tommy John recoverer Caleb Ferguson, gives the Dodgers a pair of extra options they didn’t have in 2021.
Salary: $1.275 million ($750,000 salary, plus $525,000 of signing bonus paid in 2021)
Kahnle is signed through 2022. He’ll make $3.45 million next year, plus will receive the final $25,000 of his signing bonus on February 1. Kahnle can earn a $250,000 bonus for pitching in 60 games, and another $500,000 if he pitches in 70 games.