The Braves have traded to the right-hander Kyle Wright To the royal family in exchange for his right-hand mate Jackson Cowar, Reports Ann Rogers of MLB.com. Rogers’ colleague Mark Bowman first Shown That some sort of deal involving Wright may be in the works. Wright underwent shoulder surgery after the season and is expected to miss the entire 2024 season, although Kansas City will control him for two years after that.
Wright, 28, was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 draft, and while it took him several years to get there, he eventually had a dominant showing in 2022. After posting a 6.56 ERA over 70 innings across parts of four seasons 2018 to 2021, Wright pitched a career-best in almost every capacity in 2022. Over a lifetime of 180 1/3 frames, he posted a 3.19 earned run average with a strikeout rate of 23.6%, a walk rate of 7.2%, a grounding rate of 55.6% and a 0.00 strikeout rate. 95 hours/9.
That ostensibly paved the way for Wright to play near the top of Atlanta’s rotation for years to come, but as is often the case with pitchers, injuries intervened and changed the course of his career. Wright reported shoulder soreness during spring training and opened the year on the 15-day IL. He returned in mid-April but was again placed on the injured list just three weeks later – this time eventually being moved to the 60-day IL. Wright returned for four games in September and was hit hard while showing diminished speed. He underwent surgery after the regular season and won’t return to a major league mound until the 2025 season.
Overall, Wright’s 2023 season included just 31 innings of 6.97 ERA ball with strikeout, walk, and home run rates all trending in the wrong direction. He’s arbitration-eligible this winter and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz expects to earn $1.4 million in his first outing in the process. He will almost certainly earn a similar salary in 2025 after coming off a ’24 campaign and accumulating a full year of service on the 60-day injured list. Kansas City is effectively gaining two healthy years from Wright. This first season will cost them more or less $2.8 million (next year’s salary ~$1.4 million and a matching amount the following year). Wright will be on an innings limit of sorts in ’25 and should ideally reach a full workload in 2026.
In exchange for this long-term upside play on Wright, the Royals would give the Braves six years of club control on Cowar — the former Florida Gators star, first-round pick and a top prospect who has yet to succeed in KC Cowar has one minor option The league has one year left after giving him a fourth option due to injuries (Hat tip to Bowman), but the 27-year-old has hit 75 earned runs in 74 major league innings across parts of three seasons. Suffice it to say that it is a progressive project and game in itself.
While Kowar has clearly not had any major success in the league so far, he has seen a clear uptick in speed since moving into a central role on a full-time basis. After averaging 95.7 mph on his heater as a starter in 2021, he averaged 97 mph in 2023. That’s an impressive lifetime, sure, but the pitch also has a well-below-average spin — and swinging strike rate. Cowar’s widest is 10.7% across his team. The entire arsenal is still just below league average. Cowar struck out 21.2% of his opponents in 2023 but also walked 14.6% of them — bringing his career walk rate to 13.7%.
Clearly, the brave ones see something they like. Kowar was ranked among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons and generally posted solid or better numbers throughout the minors through the 2022 season. He’s been hit hard in Triple-A over the past two years, just like As happened in the major leagues, but if the Braves can get him back to his pre-’22 form, they will have gained six years of control of the club. Hard throwing arm.
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