Barrera was DFA himself during the season’s first week. He passed through outright waivers unclaimed and remained in the organization; a month later, he makes his return to the majors after getting off to a nice start with Triple-A Las Vegas. Over 101 plate appearances, the left-handed hitter owns a .286/.347/.473 line with three homers and a couple stolen bases. That’s a better showing — at least from a power perspective — than Barrera had with the Aviators last season, when he hit .276/.348/.393 with four homers in 96 games.
The 26-year-old Barrera has only six big league games under his belt, all of them coming last season. He’s an excellent runner with ample experience at all three outfield spots in the minor leagues. Bringing him back to the majors in place of McKinney affords manager Mark Kotsay a bit more defensive flexibility, although Oakland already has a pair of strong center fielders in Ramón Laureano and Cristian Pache.
Barrera also has a minor league option year remaining, meaning the A’s can bounce him between Oakland and Vegas for the rest of the season now that he’s back on the 40-man. That wasn’t the case for McKinney, who is out of options. That lack of roster flexibility has played a part in the 27-year-old bouncing throughout the league over the past year-plus.
A former Oakland first-rounder, McKinney also played in the Cubs’ system before breaking into the big leagues with the Yankees in 2018. Traded to the Blue Jays at that summer’s deadline, he spent a couple years with Toronto before changing hands frequently via waivers. McKinney suited up with each of the Brewers, Mets and Dodgers in 2021. He tallied a personal-high 300 plate appearances between the three clubs but hit just .192/.280/.358.
After the season, Los Angeles traded McKinney to the Rangers. Texas non-tendered him a week later, and he caught on with his original organization via minor league deal in Spring Training. McKinney broke camp but got off to a brutal .096/.158/.173 start over 57 plate appearances before the A’s decided to move on.
Oakland will have a week to trade McKinney or expose him to waivers. He has never passed through the waiver wire unclaimed in his career, but the extent of this year’s struggles could deter other clubs from taking a shot. Any team that acquired him would have to keep him on their active roster or designate him for assignment themselves. If McKinney were to clear waivers, he doesn’t have the requisite service time to refuse an outright assignment.