KC Royals play the waiting game (again) with Kyle Wright

The newly acquired hurler is not the first injured pitcher the Royals have gambled on.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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Much attention has been paid to the KC Royals signing free agent pitchers Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo this offseason, and for good reason. Both pitchers have the potential to dramatically improve a pitching staff that struggled mightily in 2023. Not surprisingly, considering he will miss the entire 2024 season with a should injury, the trade for former Braves pitcher Kyle Wright has flown somewhat under the radar. But the Royals have had recent success preaching patience and gambling on injured pitchers. Can those rolls of the dice give Royals fans any insights into how things might play out with Wright?

New KC Royals pitcher Kyle Wright has tremendous upside, but plenty of questions.

A quick glance at Wright's 2022 stat line shows how good he can be: a 21-5 record and 3.19 ERA in 180.1 innings pitched over 30 starts. He also recorded 174 strikeouts and a 1.159 WHIP. My colleague Jake Eubanks put together an excellent deep dive on Wright's stuff shortly after the trade, but Royals fans don't need to be pitching savants to look at those numbers and realize they're very impressive.

Unfortunately, this isn't the whole story of Wright's career. Not counting his September call-up in 2018 and injury-shortened 2023, Wright pitched in parts of 2019-21 with the Braves and wasn't particularly effective. Outside of his fantastic 2022 season, Wright has never finished a big league season with an ERA below five. Nor did he manage to pitch well enough to stick around with major league club in any of those three seasons.

So what did the Royals get with Wright? Is he a fluke, a one-year wonder who will never be able to replicate his 2022 success with Kansas City? Or a pitcher who finally found his footing in 2022 and got bit by bad luck and the injury bug in 2023?

Regardless of the outcome, acquiring Wright for the disappointing Jackson Kowar was worth the risk. The payoff won't reveal itself until Wright returns from injury in 2025, but perhaps Royals fans can speculate on what to expect, based on two other injured former Braves pitchers the Royals gambled on in the recent past.