MLB Rumors: Why the Braves traded Kyle Wright to the Royals
On Saturday, the Atlanta Braves shipped RHP Kyle Wright to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for 27-year-old RHP Jackson Kowar. The move came as a surprise to many. Kowar split last season between MLB and Triple-A, and he has a 9.12 ERA in 39 MLB appearances since his debut in 2021. Wright is one year removed from leading the MLB with 21 wins and finishing 10th in Cy Young voting.
It's a lopsided trade on the surface. Wright is slated to miss the entire 2024 season as he rehabs from surgery on a torn capsule in his shoulder, but the Royals will have two years of team control left once Wright is healthy in 2025. If he can return to pre-injury form, Kansas City might have a No. 1 ace with postseason experience.
The operative word there is "might." With Wright, it's fair to be more than a little concerned about the injuries. He battled various forms of shoulder soreness throughout the 2023 season. It limited him to only nine appearances (seven starts), and his ERA ballooned to 6.97, compared to 3.19 in his breakout 2022 campaign.
At 28 years old, Wright has plenty of time to get back on track. But, there is considerable risk in banking on one season that, so far, is an outlier in his career. Wright didn't break through as a full-time rotation member for the Braves until 2022, his fifth MLB season. His velocity plummeted due to the injuries in 2023 and the Braves are expected to pursue upgrades to the pitching staff in free agency. There's limited room on the roster for a player expected to miss the entire season.
That said, the Braves didn't get much back in return. Kowar packs 96.9 MPH heat on his fastball, but control issues tend to get him in trouble. He posted a 6.43 ERA in 23 appearances (28.0 innings) for the Royals last season. He has one more minor league option left on his contract, however, which affords the Braves a bit of flexibility as they figure out the bullpen setup for next season.
Kowar was a first-round pick to the Royals in the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft. There is definite upside, but it is decidedly untapped. Atlanta will hope a change of scenery does the trick. It's hard not to trust Alex Anthoupolous and his rock-solid track record on the trade front, but on the other hand, Atlanta will look bad if Wright can regain his 2022 form in Kansas City. But, he will be two seasons removed from 2022 when he next suits up. So, it's a huge if.