The Yankees announced after Game 1 of today’s doubleheader that they’ve activated right-hander Adam Warren from the 10-day disabled list and optioned right-hander Tommy Kahnle to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The decision to send Kahnle to the minors would’ve seemed unfathomable following the 2017 season. The flamethrowing righty was a huge part of a July blockbuster with the White Sox and pitched to a combined 2.59 ERA with 13.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 0.57 HR/9 with a 40.7 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings. Kahnle trailed only Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen and teammate Chad Green in terms of K-BB%, and his 16.7 percent swinging-strike rate was the eighth-best of any qualified reliever in baseball.
So far, 2018 has been an entirely different story for the 28-year-old Kahnle, however. His average fastball velocity plummeted from 97.9 mph to 95 mph, and while that’s still plenty of heat, the near-three mile per hour drop is concerning all the same. Kahnle spent more than a month on the disabled list due to tendinitis in his right shoulder, and he’s allowed seven runs on six hits and a troubling 10 walks in nine innings when healthy. In addition to those 10 free passes, Kahlne has also snapped off a pair of wild pitches and seen his first-pitch strike rate drop from 62.1 percent in 2017 to 52.3 percent in 2018.
While it seems likely to be a short-term stay, the potential for service time ramifications does exist. Kahnle entered the season with just three years, 15 days of big league service time, meaning he’d need 157 days of service in 2018 to reach four years of service time and stay on track to become a free agent following the 2020 season. If he spends more than a month in the minors, that timeline would change, though it seems reasonable to expect the Yankees are hoping for a minimal stay in Scranton to get Kahnle’s command back on track.