This is McKinney’s second stint in the organization, as he was initially acquired as part of the four-play package sent by the Cubs to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman prior to the 2016 trade deadline. New York then moved McKinney as part of another deadline deal almost exactly two years later, as McKinney and Brandon Drury were traded to the Blue Jays in 2018 for J.A. Happ.
These moves have been only two entries in what has become a journeyman career for McKinney, though the former 24th-overall pick is still only 28 years old. McKinney has played in each of the last five Major League seasons, suiting up at the MLB level for 263 games with six different teams. Only two of those games were in the Yankee pinstripes, which also marked the very first two games of McKinney’s big league career.
Once seen as a top-100 prospect and a possible future center fielder, McKinney has mostly settled into a role as a corner outfielder and even a part-time first baseman. He has a career .206/.277/.387 slash line and 28 homers over 768 career plate appearances in the majors, with that home run total at least hinting at the power potential McKinney showed earlier in his career and in the minors. While the constant shutting between teams and going up and down from the minors surely hasn’t helped McKinney find any rhythm at the plate, he has hit only .177/.261/.328 in 357 PA since the start of the 2021 season. That includes a dismal .331 OPS over 57 PA with the Athletics last season.
However, McKinney also has a .271/.348/.511 slash line and 42 homers over 992 career PA at the Triple-A level, hinting at why teams are continually willing to see if any of that pop could eventually translate to the majors. Obviously, McKinney has an age and experience advantage over Triple-A pitching, and a lot of his biggest numbers came in the homer-happy 2019 minor league season and in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2021. Still, the Yankees can use Spring Training to see whether or not McKinney might have any late-bloomer potential, and could help add some outfield depth if he breaks camp with the team (McKinney is out of minor league options).