McKinney, 26, is a former first-round Draft pick with ample power, which has resulted in 21 home runs over 511 career Major League plate appearances. But he has struggled to make consistent contact and reach base at the game’s highest level, slashing just .226/.285/.422 in the Majors.
Still, McKinney offers the Mets plenty of potential over the next month while they wait for injured outfielders Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Pillar to return. Conforto (strained right hamstring) is not due back until late June or early July, while Nimmo (nerve issue in left hand) has no timetable for his return. Pillar could rejoin the Mets somewhat sooner after undergoing facial surgery last week, but he remains weeks away from a return.
In addition, the Mets are without third- and fourth-string center fielders Albert Almora Jr. and Johneshwy Fargas, each of whom sustained an injured shoulder crashing into the outfield fence at Citi Field.
The Mets are likely to clear roster space for McKinney by placing Fargas on the injured list, which will give them 17 players on the IL. To make 40-man space for McKinney, the Mets transferred Jordan Yamamoto from the 10-day to the 60-day IL.
Earlier this week, general manager Zack Scott essentially described McKinney when he outlined the type of player the Mets wanted to acquire to patch their roster: Someone with enough potential to play every day, but who can accept a lesser role once Conforto, Nimmo and others return. McKinney certainly qualifies, having appeared in 40 of the Brewers’ 48 games this season. Although he hit only .207/.260/.359 in those games, the left-handed McKinney slugged more than 100 points higher against right-handed pitching.
In addition, advanced metrics paint McKinney as at least a league-average defender at both corner outfield positions. Last month, he made one of the most memorable catches of the young season, diving to rob Wil Myers of an extra-base hit in San Diego.
“Players want opportunities,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said at the time. “Players like Billy, sometimes it feels like they don’t get a ton of opportunities, and you don’t know when they're coming. Being able to deliver on those opportunities is easier said than done, but that’s what Billy’s doing. He’s been an impactful player. He’s played really good defense. He’s been a spark.”
McKinney is out of Minor League options, but the Mets won’t worry about his longer-term future in the organization until they have to.
“The reality is there’s plenty of opportunity now for people to play,” Scott said, “and if they’re performing, to get those opportunities.”
In New York, McKinney figures to play mostly right field, which will allow the Mets to keep Dominic Smith in left and use some combination of Cameron Maybin and Khalil Lee in center. But McKinney could also play left if manager Luis Rojas wants to shift Smith to first base. For now, the Mets are happy to use regular catcher James McCann at first, where he has played well in two games, which allows them to keep hot-hitting backup catcher Tomás Nido in the lineup, as well.
The pitcher the Mets gave up in the deal, Quintana, is a 17-year-old who has yet to appear in a professional game. Quintana did not rank among New York’s Top 30 prospects.