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Royals trade Jackson Kowar to Atlanta for Kyle Wright

Kowar gets a change of scenery, while Kansas City gets a solid but injured arm in return.

Colorado Rockies v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

The Kansas City Royals executed a straight trade of right-handed pitchers Friday night, sending Jackson Kowar to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Kyle Wright, per Anne Rogers.

Wright, 26, underwent surgery last month to repair a torn capsule in his right shoulder and will not pitch in 2024. Limited by injury to that shoulder throughout 2023, Wright threw just 45.1 innings combined between the majors and the minors and struggled, posting an ERA over six in both his nine major league appearances and his three Triple-A starts. Prior to that was a strong 2022, when Wright threw 180.1 innings across 30 starts with a 3.19 ERA and 3.58 FIP. His ‘22 season was remarkably similar to that of Brady Singer. In his limited action outside ‘22, Wright has struggled with walks and home runs, hence his career 4.45 ERA and 4.50 FIP.

Armed with a true five-pitch mix, Wright is the rare pitcher that leans most heavily on a non-fastball, that being his 84 mph curveball. He throws both a sinker and four-seamer around 93, with the sinker being his preferred fastball. He also throws a diving changeup that he frequently located arm-side and a slider as a show-me option. Wright often throws his curveball for strikes and lacks a true bat-missing offering in his arsenal. When he found success in ‘22, he ran a 55.6% groundball rate.

Wright will spend 2024 rehabbing with the Royals in hopes of locking in a spot in the 2025 starting rotation. He is entering his first year of arbitration and is projected for $1.4 million per MLBTR.

Kowar, 27, was an ideal change-of-scenery candidate and will get a fresh start in Atlanta. After consistent minor league success early on, Kowar debuted in 2021 and had nine disastrous appearances with an 11.27 ERA. He has not been able to sort himself out since, posting poor numbers in both Triple-A and the majors in subsequent seasons. Even when used almost exclusively as a one-inning reliever in 2023, Kowar still struggled badly. His command has regressed significantly, his fastball remains hittable despite good velo, and he has been unable to develop a usable breaking ball to accompany his changeup. This is a reclamation project for Atlanta with the hopes of turning around the career of a former top prospect.