The Royals acquired a reliever Albert Abreu Rangers for minor league pitcher Yohanse Morel, according to the announcements of the two clubs. Kansas City will announce additional corresponding moves once Abreu reports to the team in the coming days.
Abreu, 26, spent about two months in Arlington. Texas acquired him from the Yankees in exchange for a backstop Jose Trevino in the week preceding opening day. The Rangers had acquired Mitch Garver to join a capture group that also included Jonas Heim and Sam Huffand they felt it freed them up to tend to their band behind the plate in hopes of adding a potential long-term play.
The acquisition did not go as the team had hoped, as Abreu struggled mightily for seven appearances. He allowed just three runs in 8 2/3 innings, but he walked 12 batters and returned two homers in that limited time. Abreu is unlikely to maintain an acceptable ERA while he struggles with free passes at this point, and Texas designated him for assignment Monday.
Strike throwing has been a problem for Abreu throughout his professional career, but not quite to the extent it was during his limited time as a Ranger. A well-regarded prospect during his time in the Astros and Yankees farm systems, he was nonetheless forced into the bullpen due to a lack of control. This was borne out in his big league work, as the Dominican Republic native walked 12.2% through 36 2/3 frames with New York last season – his first with an extended workload at the big league level.
The fact that Abreu has attracted interest from a handful of teams despite his control issues is a testament to his high octane rating, though. He averaged nearly 98 mph on his fastball in each of his last two seasons, demonstrating elite arm speed. He backs that up with an ’80s top slider and shifter that each garnered good reviews from prospect evaluators, and the breakup ball has been a swing-and-miss quality offering at the MLB level.
With that kind of arsenal, it’s not hard to dream of Abreu carving out a future in a major league bullpen. Even if his uneven control limits him to low-leverage work, the Royals can hope for better results with his intriguing pitch mix. If they can, Abreu could be a long-term option. He won’t eclipse his first full year of MLB service until this season, meaning he would be controllable until the end of the 2027 campaign. However, he has no more option years in the leagues. minors, which means Kansas City must keep him on the active roster or make him available to rival clubs themselves.
The fact that the Royals have parted ways with a young arm to acquire Abreu suggests they are ready to give him the opportunity. Kansas City is near the top of the league in waiver priority, but they parted ways with Morel to ensure no other team acquires Abreu via a trade of their own. This is the second trade of Morel’s career, as he was treated to Nationals alongside Kelvin Gutierrez and Blake Perkins in the 2018 exchange that sent Kelvin Herrera in Washington.
Morel, 21, was a fairly popular prospect early in his professional career. He’s twice appeared on Baseball America’s ranking of the Kansas City system’s top 30 minor league talents, but hasn’t been mentioned in the past two years because he struggled at High-A. Morel moved to the bullpen last season but was scored for a 6.66 ERA in 50 innings. The Royals decided against adding him to the 40-man roster until the Rule 5 draft (which never ended up transpiring), and he repeated the tier in 2022.
In 17 2/3 innings this season, Morel has a more appropriate 4.09 ERA. He beat 25.9% of opponents with a high walk rate of 12.3%. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin wrote last week that his arsenal is headlined by a more split shift. He’ll be eligible for Rule 5 again this winter if he doesn’t earn a spot on Texas’ 40-man roster.
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