NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees have let Tommy Kahnle become a free agent rather than allow him to become eligible for salary arbitration ahead of a season he is likely to largely miss while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
New York said Saturday that the hard-throwing 31-year-old right-hander had refused an outright assignment to the minor leagues and elected to become a free agent, Kahnle's right as a player with at least three years of major league service.
Kahnle has 5 years, 131 days of major league service and despite the injury would have been likely to get a raise after making $2.65 million last season.
He had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 4 with Yankees head physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad and is likely to return in late 2021 or at the start of the 2022 season. His absence was a factor in the Yankees' loss to Tampa Bay in the American League Division Series, when Aroldis Chapman gave up a go-ahead home run to Mike Brosseau in the eighth inning of Game 5.
Kahnle had been one of five key relievers in the bullpen, joining Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino. Manager Aaron Boone's late-inning options became limited by Kahnle's injury and Ottavino's ineffectiveness.
Kahnle struck out 88 in 61 1/3 innings and walked 20 in 2019, averaging 96.8 mph with his fastball. He had a 3.67 ERA.
He threw a 20-pitch eighth inning at Washington this year in his season debut on July 26 with three strikeouts, a hit and a walk, then felt discomfort while working out on July 28 and stopped a planned throwing session the following day. He didn't pitch again this year.