It was a curious transaction. After all, McKinney had been on the open market already, cut loose in the Yankees' first wave of transactions this winter with the likes of Ryan Weber. The Pirates could've simply signed him on the cheap at any point between early November and December. What made him suddenly so appealing, six days after the Yankees had locked him up? And why did the Yankees pivot so quickly after seemingly green-lighting a feel-good depth reunion?
As it turns out, New York needed international bonus money -- and fast. The 2023 pool was about to close, and the money they acquired in the McKinney deal -- $450,000 -- was immediately reinvested in two players.
No, the Yankees weren't stockpiling money for 2024's potential Roki Sasaki posting (in the same way they once shipped Adam Warren out for pool money, which ... sort of, kind of went unused). Instead, they were looking to scare up enough cash for catcher Justin Capellan, as well as outfielder Yael Zapata, two players who once shared a showcase.
Yankees sign pair of international players with Billy McKinney's money
Capellan, from our vantage point, is a nearly unknown prospect, reportedly weighing in at 160 pounds on a 6'0" frame at the age of 17. At this moment in time, he's just a blip on a transaction wire, a catching depth piece in a farm that's already flush with catchers (considering five of them remain on the 40-man roster).
McKinney, on the other hand, was the most effective lefty outfield fill-in of 2023, though that's a lot like saying Carlos Rodón was last season's best left-handed rotation option in the Bronx. The journeyman posted 0.2 bWAR and a 98 OPS+, carrying the team's offensive efforts for a good portion of June.
It would seem wise to keep him at Triple-A -- and off the 40-man roster -- on a minor-league pact, in case times get desperate once again in 2024. But the Yankees valued Capellan at the buzzer more, and that's really all we can tell you right now.