Pirates’ general manager Ben Cherington has informed reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of The Athleticthat the club has acquired left-hander Manny Banuelos from the Yankees for cash considerations. No corresponding move will be necessary as the Pirates already had a vacancy on their 40-man roster.
Banuelos, 31, was in the Yankees’ system as far back as 2008, when he was just 17 years old. He was long-considered one of the best prospects in the system, appearing on Baseball America’s list of the top 30 Yankee youngsters for seven straight years from 2009 to 2015. That was despite missing the entirety of the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
In 2015, he was traded to Atlanta for David Carpenter and chasen shreve and made his MLB debut that year, though injuries limited him to just 26 1/3 innings. He then bounced around the minors for a few seasons, pitching in the systems of the Braves, Angels, Dodgers and White Sox. The Pale Hose gave him his second MLB opportunity, as Banuelos threw 50 2/3 innings for them in 2019, though he underwhelmed with a 6.93 ERA in that time.
In 2020 and 2021, he took his journeyman status to another level, signing with the Mariners, before joining the Fubon Guardians of the Chinese Professional Baseball League and then the Sultanes de Monterrey of the Mexican League.
In January, the Yankees signed him to a minor league deal, bringing him back to the organization where his career began. Banuelos pitched well in Triple-A, throwing 30 2/3 innings with a 2.35 ERA, 24.2% strikeout rate, 9.7% walk rate and 45.6% ground ball rate. Based on that strong performance, he finally got the call to join the Yankees after so many twists and turns.
He spent just over a month with the big league team, faring quite well in 8 1/3 innings. He has a 2.16 ERA on the season so far, along with a 22.9% strikeout rate, 8.6% walk rate and 62.5% ground ball rate in that small sample. Despite that solid showing, Banuelos lost his roster spot last week, likely due to the fact that he’s out of options.
Despite his long and winding career, Banuelos has only increased about two years of MLB service time. That makes him a fairly sensitive pickup for the Pirates. If he can sustain any of the promising results he’s shown so far this year, they can retain him well into the future, when they will surely hope to be more competitive than they are at the moment. He makes a lot of sense in the short term as well, given the club’s current bullpen situation. With Anthony Banda recently being DFA’d and traded to the Blue Jays, that left Cam Vieaux as the only southpaw in the club’s bullpen. The team leaned hard on Vieaux in mop-up duty recently, as he was sent out to pitch the eighth inning on Friday with the club down 9-1. The Pirates let him take a shellacking to save the rest of their arms, as he ended up throwing 56 pitches in a single inning of work, allowing eight runs (seven earned). The addition of Banuelos will give them a fresh arm from the south side to insert in their relief mix.