The Pirates’ general manager, Ben Cherington, has briefed reporters, including Rob Biertempel from The Athleticthat the club has acquired left-handers Manny Banuelos by the Yankees for cash payments. A corresponding move is not necessary as the Pirates already had a vacancy in their 40-man roster.
Banuelos, 31, was in the Yankees system in 2008 when he was just 17 years old. Long considered one of the top contenders in the system, he was on Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankee Youngsters list for seven straight years from 2009 to 2015. And that’s despite missing the entire 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
In 2015 he was traded to Atlanta David Tischler and Chasen Shreve and made his MLB debut that year, though injuries limited him to just 26 1/3 innings. He then hopped around with the Minors for a few seasons and played in the Braves, Angels, Dodgers, and White Sox systems. The Pale Hose gave him his second MLB chance when Banuelos threw 50 2/3 innings for them in 2019, despite underachieving with a 6.93 ERA during 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 did well in Triple-A, throwing 30 2/3 innings with a 2.35 ERA, 24.2% strikeout rate, 9.7% walk rate and ground ball rate of 45.6%. Because of that strong performance, after so many twists and turns, he finally got a call to join the Yankees.
He spent a little over a month with the big league team and did reasonably well in 8 1/3 innings. He has a 2.16 ERA season to date, along with a 22.9% strikeout rate, 8.6% walk rate, and 62.5% ground ball rate in this small sample . Despite that solid performance, Banuelos lost his roster spot last week, likely due to the fact that he’s run out of options.
Despite his long and tortuous career, Banuelos has only accumulated about two years of MLB service. That makes it a pretty reasonable pickup truck for the pirates. If he can maintain any of the promising results he has shown so far this year then they can tie him well into the future when they will certainly hope to be more competitive than they are at the moment. He also makes a lot of sense in the short term given the club’s current bullpen situation. With Anthony Banda recently DFA’d and traded to the Blue Jays who have left Cam Viaux as the only southpaw in the club’s bullpen. The team recently relied heavily on Vieaux on cleanup duty when he was sent into the eighth inning Friday, 9-1 down. The Pirates let him take a shellac to save the rest of their arms, as he ended up throwing 56 pitches in a single working inning, allowing for eight carries (seven earned). The addition of Banuelos will give them a fresh arm from the south side to add to their relief mix.