SAN DIEGO — The Red Sox saw one of their free agent bullpen targets head to a rival Tuesday morning.
Righthander Tommy Kahnle reached a two-year, $11.5 million agreement to return to the Yankees, with whom he pitched from 2017-20. The Red Sox were among several teams in advanced talks with the righthander. According to a major league source, the Sox had a two-year offer on the table before the reliever landed with the Yankees.
Kahnle, 33, pitched just 12⅔ innings in 2022. But after he was sidelined for four months from mid-May through mid-September with a bone bruise in his elbow, the righthander was dominant down the stretch, finishing the year by allowing one run over 8⅔ innings with nine strikeouts and one walk for the Dodgers. Kahnle, who missed nearly all of 2020 and the entirety of the 2021 season because of Tommy John surgery, featured his excellent 90-miles-per-hour changeup as his primary pitch, throwing it an incredible 83 percent of the time in September, while sitting at 95-96 m.p.h. with his four-seam fastball.
The Red Sox bullpen had a 4.59 ERA last year, producing a mandate for change. While the Sox already have signed lefthander Joely Rodríguez to a one-year, $2 million deal that includes a team option and reached agreement with righthander Chris Martin on a two-year deal worth a reported $17.5 million, they are hoping to continue bolstering their relief group.
“We came into this offseason on the pitching side of things wanting to add multiple arms to the bullpen, hopefully at least three, maybe more if we see the opportunity is there,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said on Monday at the Winter Meetings. “That was something we wanted to prioritize, targeting specific relievers we like, that we think will help us win games and bring ingredients that help the puzzle fit. It’s obviously an area we struggled in ‘22.
“A big part of the improvement we’re hoping to see has to come from getting more out of guys that are here and helping them reach their ceilings. That can really take us to the next level, but we also felt we couldn’t sit on our hands with the group we had. We had to go out and add to it and we’re in the middle of doing that.”
Kahnle would have represented a third step in that process. Instead, the Sox will now turn to other targets.