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Pirates acquire Johnny Barbato from Yankees

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Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Pirates have announced that they’ve acquired righty reliever Johnny Barbato from the Yankees for a player to be named or cash. They’ve placed him on their 40-man roster and optioned him to Indianapolis. Whether it’s coincidence or not, the move continues what seems to be the Pirates’ longstanding interest in Yankees pitchers and catchers — A.J. Burnett, Russell Martin, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Ivan Nova, Tyler Webb, and so on.

The Yankees designated Barbato for assignment last week, so the Pirates are likely just acquiring him for depth reasons, but you never know. He’s only 24, throws in the mid-90s, can make multiple-inning appearances, and has had decent minor-league strikeout rates, so he’s at least somewhat interesting. (He does, however, struggle with control, walking about four batters per nine innings in Triple-A and the majors last year.) Originally a Padre, Barbato headed from San Diego to the Yankees in a deal for Shawn Kelley in the winter of 2014-15, and he made his big-league debut last season.

The Pirates have, in the past, acquired players like Arquimedes Caminero under similar circumstances and ended up taking them seriously, so it’s possible they could do the same with Barbato. The fact that Barbato is optionable is also a plus — they can keep him on their 40-man roster while stashing him in the minors to see if he develops. At the very least, he could become a long-relief-type option for the Pirates later in the season, perhaps making a few sporadic appearances on days when the Bucs’ regular relievers can use a breather.