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The Pittsburgh Pirates have made a surprising move by acquiring outfielder Billy McKinney from the New York Yankees in exchange for international bonus pool money, according to Jack Curry of Yes Network. McKinney, 29, had recently signed a minor league deal with the Yankees, making this trade a somewhat unusual development. Since he wasn’t on the 40-man roster, McKinney won’t immediately claim a roster spot with the Pirates.

A former first-round pick and top 100 prospect, McKinney has struggled to find consistent success at the Major League level. In his 311 big league games dating back to 2018, he has posted a batting line of .209/.284/.390, resulting in a wRC+ of 81. McKinney played 48 games for the Yankees in the most recent season, demonstrating a blend of plate discipline and strikeouts with an 11.6% walk rate and a 26.5% strikeout rate. His .227/.320/.406 batting line translated to a 101 wRC+, indicating he was around league-average overall. Despite this, the Yankees outrighted him at the end of the season, leading him to elect free agency and subsequently sign a minor league deal before being traded to the Pirates.

The acquisition of McKinney could be related to the Pirates’ catching situation. With prospects Endy Rodríguez and Henry Davis making their debuts in 2023, the team faced uncertainties, particularly with Rodríguez undergoing UCL/flexor tendon surgery and missing the entire 2024 season. If Davis isn’t considered an outfield option, there might be an opening in right field, complementing Jack Suwinski in center and Bryan Reynolds in left.

New Yankees outfielder Billy McKinney's journeyman career returns to Bronx  - Pinstripe Alley


In terms of roster flexibility, McKinney is out of options but possesses just over three years of service time. If he experiences a breakthrough performance, the Pirates could potentially retain him beyond the 2024 season through arbitration. To secure McKinney’s non-roster depth, the Pirates are sending an undisclosed amount of international bonus pool space to the Yankees. Given that the current international signing period is concluding soon, it’s conceivable that the Pirates had unused pool space that they weren’t planning to use, while the Yankees had specific plans for its utilization. The transaction reflects an interesting interplay between roster needs, player potential, and strategic use of international bonus pool resources.

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