Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Relief Pitchers to Target in Free Agency

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 12: Tommy Kahnle #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates the third out in the ninth inning in game two of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on October 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 12: Tommy Kahnle #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates the third out in the ninth inning in game two of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on October 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 14: Tommy Kahnle #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning in game three of the National League Division Series at PETCO Park on October 14, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 14: Tommy Kahnle #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning in game three of the National League Division Series at PETCO Park on October 14, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates should pursue these three free agent relief pitchers to bolster the bullpen during this upcoming off-season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates relief corps is thin. Aside from David Bednar, the team will rely on a handful of inexperienced arms like Yerry De Los Santos and Colin Holderman or relievers who had inconsistent 2022 seasons like Wil Crowe. The Pirates need to go out and get some relief pitching, and this year’s free-agent market holds some underrated names.

Today, I want to point out three free-agent relievers the Pittsburgh Pirates should target in free agency. The team needs to add something in the way of relief pitching, and free agency would be the easiest way to get a few quality arms to bolster the bullpen behind Bednar.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates don’t want to rely on a handful of rookies, then these relievers might be helpful to the team.

Tommy Kahnle

Tommy Kahnle returned from Tommy John surgery this season. He pretty much missed two seasons, pitching just a single inning in 2020 and then undergoing the knife late in the campaign, causing him to miss the 2021 season. Before the surgery, Kahnle was the owner of a 3.67 ERA, 3.33 FIP, and 1.06 WHIP in 2019.

The LA Dodgers then signed Kahnle in the 2020-2021 offseason, and while he only pitched 12.2 innings in 2022, they were an effective small sample size. He only allowed four earned runs, three free passes and struck out 14. He did allow two home runs but ran into some lousy flyball luck. Kahnle’s home run-to-flyball ratio was 28.6%, despite having a 68% ground ball rate and holding opponents to an astounding 82.3 MPH exit velocity.

Kahnle completely changed his repertoire in 2022. He used his change-up over three-quarters of the time, with a 76.4% usage rate. His fastball usage rate then dropped to just 23.6%. Kahnle’s changeup is nasty, having over 31 inches of drop and nearly 13 inches of horizontal break.

Although Kahnle did lose a tick of velo off his fastball, working closer to 95-96 MPH rather than 97-98 MPH, his change-up velocity remained about the same, and he even gained movement on both offerings. Kahnle will enter 2023 at 33 years old, but he’s proved he can still be a highly effective high-leverage arm.

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