Yankees oddly waive lefty outfielder with upside

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees, billy mckinney
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees made strategic roster moves on Thursday, parting ways with several players. These adjustments cleared up roster space, potentially paving the way for new acquisitions, whether through free agency or by promoting prospects within the organization.

Billy McKinney’s Future in the Balance

Among those affected by the roster changes was outfielder Billy McKinney. At 29, McKinney has a choice to make: he can either choose free agency or accept reassignment to Triple-A. In the minors, he would have the chance to hone his skills and prepare for potential re-entry into the majors in 2024.

McKinney’s recent performance has been notable. He achieved a .227 batting average with a .320 on-base percentage, contributed six home runs, and drove in 14 RBIs over 48 games. His strikeout rate stood at 26.5%, paired with an 11.6% walk rate, resulting in a 101 wRC+, signaling that he was a slightly above-average offensive player last season.

Impressive Offensive Metrics

McKinney’s power at the plate was evident in his career-high metrics: a 41.1% hard-hit rate, a 12.2% barrel rate, and an 89.1 average exit velocity, with a peak of 109.7 mph. These numbers suggest he has been making solid contact and could add value and variety to a lineup.

Surprisingly, McKinney excelled against left-handed pitchers, batting .333 and maintaining a .400 on-base percentage, though this was based on a limited sample size of nine at-bats. Against righties, he batted .218 with a .314 OBP and all six of his home runs.

Defensive Considerations and Comparisons

In the field, McKinney recorded 333 outfield innings, ending up with -2 defensive runs saved and -1 out above average, yet he maintained a perfect fielding percentage. Some might argue that McKinney would have been a more beneficial hold than Jake Bauers, another left-handed batter who can also play first base.

Bauers, at 28, participated in 84 games, recording a .202 batting average, a .279 OBP, and slugging .413, including 12 home runs and 30 RBIs. His offensive production was lower than McKinney’s, as reflected in his 89 wRC+. Despite this, the Yankees might see potential in Bauers that justifies further development.

McKinney’s Uncertain Path Forward

While McKinney might have another shot during spring training to secure a spot on the roster, the possibility of free agency looms. Finding a new team could present a challenge, but the Yankees’ broader strategy appears to be enhancing team depth and investing in prospects with greater potential for the 2024 season.

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