KC Royals, Atlanta Braves swap former first-round pitchers Friday

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals made another trade with the Atlanta Braves on Friday night, this time swapping former first-round selections. The Royals acquired righty Kyle Wright from Atlanta in exchange for Jackson Kowar. MLB.com's Anne Rogers first reported the move, with the Royals later confirming it.

The move is telling for the Royals' strategy and plans for the upcoming season. First, Kansas City moved on from a former top pitching prospect in Kowar who continually posted negative seasons, whether starting or relieving. General manager J.J. Picollo did signal the team had limited patience with underperforming players, and Kowar showed no reason for the team to keep him. After being out of minor-league options with the club, Kowar seeks a fresh start with a contending team.

Another KC Royals trade impacts the future beyond 2024 most.

On the flip side, the move screams that Kansas City is not gearing up for a 2024 push. Wright underwent shoulder surgery following the 2023 season after experiencing recurring pain and limited mobility. He was limited to 31 innings for the Braves this past season, serving as both a starter and a reliever. The Royals are looking for the righty to contribute in 2025 and beyond since the surgery will keep him out of the 2024 season.

Wright is a great trade-and-stash player for the future Royals. He finished 10th in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2022. He posted a 21-5 record, 3.19 ERA, and 1.159 WHIP in 30 starts that season. Kansas City hopes he can return to that form after fully recovering. The Royals still have multiple years of team-friendly control over Wright, who is still 28 years old.

As much as fans want improvements to the MLB product now, this trade does little to do that. Kowar was not a positive contributor in 2023, but Wright's earliest return is Opening Day 2025. The team will still need to make moves to address many roster deficiencies. The earlier Nick Anderson trade should boost the bullpen this upcoming season, but more needs to be done this offseason. It is hard to be mad about this risky move, after only surrendering a negative-fWAR player.