Photo courtesy of Pinstripe Alley.
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired outfielder Billy McKinney from the New York Yankees in exchange for international bonus pool money. McKinney just recently signed a minor league deal with the Yankees, so he won’t have to take a spot in the Pirates' 40-man roster unless he makes the team.
McKinney, 29, was originally drafted 24th overall in the first round by the Oakland Athletics in 2013. He was sent to the class-A Advanced League and then he was traded to the Chicago Cubs the following season in a 5-player deal. He toiled around the minor leagues for the Cubs until he was traded to the New York Yankees in 2016, in another big 5-player deal.
McKinney got to make his major league debut in 2018 for the Yankees after outfielder Aaron Hicks went down with an injury. He recorded a hit in his very first MLB at-bat and subsequently was placed on the disabled list after the game with a shoulder injury. He was sent to the minors and once again traded, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays where he put up his best numbers in 2018. In 36 games he hit .252 with 6 homers and 13 RBI.
In 2019, McKinney had his best power season in the majors. In 84 games he hit 12 home runs, though he only hit .215 and struck out over 27% of the time. Milwaukee claimed him off waivers in September of 2020 and with the Brewers he only hit .207 with 3 homers and 6 RBI.
He played on 3 teams in 2021, Milwaukee, the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Combined he hit only .192 with 9 home runs and he knocked in 27 runs. He has since had his second stint with Oakland and then last season played for the New York Yankees.
McKinney is what many like to call a “Quad A” player, too good for AAA, but not quite good enough for the majors. Coming out of college he was known for his sweet left handed swing and is ability to barrel up pitches. He has struggled in the major leagues though he does draw his share of walks (to go along with the strikeouts). His average in the major leagues is only .209 in over 800 at bats and he struggles against lefties. McKinney is only an average baserunner, but offers utility to any team, having played all 3 outfield positions and even some first base in his career.
This off-season the Pirates have created more questions than answers. With catcher Endy Rodriguez and starting pitcher Johan Oviedo out for the season the Pirates have not yet brought in the necessary talent needed to replace them. McKinney may get a shot at right field, especially if Henry Davis is put back behind the plate. However, Josh Palacios may end up being a better overall option than McKinney and should be given a shot at the right field position.