Yankees Trade Newly-Signed Outfielder

Outfielder's Shift Sparks Strategic Rethink for Pirates.

by Nouman Rasool
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Yankees Trade Newly-Signed Outfielder
© Sarah Stier/Getty Images

In a strategic move that has surprised many, the Pittsburgh Pirates have secured outfielder Billy McKinney from the New York Yankees, a deal facilitated by international bonus pool money. This transaction, first reported by Jack Curry of Yes Network, comes shortly after McKinney's recent signing of a minor league deal with the Yankees.

McKinney, 29, a former first-round draft pick and once a top-100 prospect, has struggled to find his footing in the major leagues. His career, dating back to his debut in 2018, spans 311 games with a batting average of .209, an on-base percentage of .284, and a slugging percentage of .390, culminating in a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 81.

Despite these modest numbers, McKinney's performance this year with the Yankees showed signs of potential. Over 48 games, he maintained a .227 batting average, a .320 on-base percentage, and a .406 slugging percentage. This performance translated to a wRC+ of 101, indicating his offensive output was on par with the league average.

McKinney's New Chapter

The Yankees, however, decided to part ways with McKinney at the season's end, leading him to elect free agency before rejoining on a minor league basis. His journey now continues with the Pirates, a move that may be linked to Pittsburgh's catching conundrum.

With the unfortunate news of prospect Endy Rodriguez requiring UCL/flexor tendon surgery and missing the 2024 season, the Pirates are left to reassess their fielding strategy. Henry Davis and Rodriguez, both having debuted in 2023, had shared catching duties, with Davis spending considerable time in right field.

The Pirates still consider Davis a primary catcher, opening a potential vacancy in the outfield. This is where McKinney's role becomes crucial. With the Pirates' outfield currently featuring Jack Suwinski in center and Bryan Reynolds in left, and other potential candidates like Joshua Palacios, Connor Joe, Ji Hwan Bae, and Canaan Smith-Njigba, McKinney adds much-needed depth.

Should McKinney secure a spot on the roster, it's worth noting his status: out of options but with just over three years of service time. This positions him as a key player for the Pirates, who could potentially retain him beyond 2024 through arbitration, especially if he experiences a significant upswing in his performance.

As the 2024 season approaches, all eyes will be on McKinney to see if this change of scenery marks the turning point in his major league career.

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