Yankees trade outfielder six days after bringing him back

Billy McKinney went back-to-back in the Yankees 4-3 win over the Astros in the Bronx on Aug 3, 2023.
John Allen
Friday December 15, 2023

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In a trade reported by Jack Curry of Yes Network, the Pirates have obtained outfielder Billy McKinney from the Yankees in return for international bonus pool funds. Curry highlighted that McKinney had recently entered into a minor-league agreement with the Yankees, indicating that he wasn’t part of the 40-man roster and, as a result, would not occupy a roster spot with the Pirates.

In a trade that deviates from the norm, McKinney, aged 29, recently inked a deal with the Yankees on December 8. Despite being a former first-round pick and a one-time top-100 prospect, he has struggled to fully succeed at the major league level. Over 311 games in the big leagues since his debut in 2018, McKinney has posted a batting line of .209/.284/.390 with a wRC+ of 81.

The Yankees used McKinney as a bet


During his 48 appearances with the Yankees this year, he displayed a patient approach by walking in 11.6% of his plate appearances but also had a high strikeout rate at 26.5%. Although his batting line of .227/.320/.406 resulted in a 101 wRC+, suggesting he was approximately league-average overall, the Yankees outrighted him off the roster at the end of the season. Opting for free agency, McKinney returned on a minor-league deal only to now make the move to the Pirates organization.

There’s a potential connection between McKinney’s addition and the catching scenario in Pittsburgh. In the 2023 season, prospects Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis made their debuts, with Rodríguez primarily handling catching duties while Davis spent most of his time in right field. Despite Davis being considered a catcher by the club, his path to that position expanded this week with the news that Rodríguez will undergo UCL/flexor tendon surgery, sidelining him for the entire 2024 season.

Yankees' Billy McKinney makes an unbelivable catch to rob Drew Waters of the Royals on July 21, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

If Davis isn’t considered for an outfield position, the Pirates will have a vacancy in right field, with Jack Suwinski in center and Bryan Reynolds in left. While they do have some roster options in Joshua Palacios, Connor Joe, Ji Hwan Bae, and Canaan Smith-Njigba, McKinney adds valuable non-roster depth.

In the scenario where McKinney secures a roster spot, it’s worth noting that he is out of options but has just over three years of service time. If he experiences the breakthrough performance many have been anticipating, the Pirates could potentially retain him beyond 2024 through arbitration.

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