The Brewers announced Monday that they’ve claimed outfielder Billy McKinney off waivers from the Blue Jays, who had designated him for assignment on Friday. He’s been optioned to the Brewers’ alternate training site. Milwaukee also added righty Justin Topa as the 29th man for their doubleheader today and reinstated right-hander Ray Black from the 45-day injured list.
The 26-year-old McKinney was a first-round pick (No. 24 overall) by the Athletics back in 2013 and has since bounced around the league in a series of high-profile swaps. Oakland initially sent him to the Cubs as part of the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, but McKinney never made it to the big leagues in Chicago. Instead, the Cubs shipped him to the Yankees alongside Gleyber Torres in 2016’s Aroldis Chapman deadline swap. Nearly two years to the day later, the Yankees flipped McKinney to Toronto as part of their return for lefty J.A. Happ.
McKinney appeared in only two games for the Yankees and has spent the other 122 games of his big league career with the Toronto organization. He’s shown some pop, evidenced by a .209 ISO, 18 homers, 21 doubles and a triple in 407 plate appearances with the Jays, but McKinney has also been prone to strikeouts and infield flies without drawing much in the walk department.
Overall, McKinney is a .231/.291/.437 hitter with a 25.8 percent strikeout rate and a 7.3 percent walk rate in the Majors. He’s drawn average reviews for his glovework in right field and below-average marks in left. McKinney has never played center in the Majors but does have a handful of innings at first base. He’s out of minor league options after this season, so there will be increased pressure for him to make the club in 2021 — if he survives on the 40-man roster until next year’s Spring Training, that is.
The decision to designate Supak is somewhat of a surprise, given that he’s long been regarded among the organization’s better pitching prospects and put together a nice season in Double-A last year. True, the Milwaukee farm has been regarded as one of the lower-ranking systems in the game for several seasons, but Supak looked to have an opportunity to make it to the Majors this year.
Supak spent most of last year in Double-A, where he pitched 122 2/3 frames of 2.20 ERA ball with 6.9 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 0.44 HR/9 and a 44.8 percent grounder rate. It’s a very pitcher-friendly setting, and the right-hander’s fielding-independent metrics weren’t as bullish as that rudimentary ERA — 3.14 FIP, 3.59 xFIP — but it was still a promising season all around. Supak was hit hard in a brief seven-game Triple-A stint, but that was true of most pitchers, given the offensive eruption throughout Triple-A that coincided with changes to the composition of the ball itself.
Milwaukee can’t trade Supak at this point, so he’ll now surely be run through outright waivers. He has a minor league option remaining beyond this season and a relatively strong minor league track record, so it wouldn’t all be a surprise to see another club place a claim. Perhaps of note, the club that originally drafted Supak, the Pirates, has the top waiver priority at present. (They’ve since turned over the top of their front office, however.) If Supak goes unclaimed, Milwaukee will be able to outright him to its alternate site and keep him both in the organization and in the 60-man player pool.
As for the 28-year-old Rodriguez, he never got into a game with the Brewers after coming over from the Tigers in a December waiver claim. He’s a versatile utility piece with a bit of pop but overwhelming on-base issues, as can be seen in his career .221/.254/.396 batting line. Rodriguez did swat 14 big flies in 294 MLB plate appearances last year, but he also carries a career 24.8 percent strikeout rate and has seen a dismal 18.2 percent of his fly-balls register as infield pop-ups. Thirty percent of Rodriguez’s plate appearances have resulted in either a punchout or a pop-up, and he’s walked at just a 4.6 percent pace in the Majors.