The Royals have acquired relievers Albert Abreu from Rangers to minor league pitcher Yohanse Morel, according to announcements by both clubs. Kansas City will announce further related steps as Abreu reports back to the team in the coming days.
Abreu, 26, spent about two months in Arlington. Texas acquired him from the Yankees in exchange for backstop Jose Trevino in the week before opening day. The Rangers had acquired Mitch Garver to join a catch group which is also included Jonah Heim and Sam Hufand they felt this freed them to break away from their group behind the plate in hopes of adding a potential long-term bullpen piece.
The takeover didn’t go as the team had hoped as Abreu struggled in seven appearances. He only allowed three runs in 8 2/3 innings, but he batted 12 and gave up a pair of homers in that limited time. There’s little chance Abreu will maintain an acceptable ERA while he’s struggling with free passes at this level, and Texas designated him for action Monday.
Slap throwing was a problem for Abreu throughout his pro career, although not quite to the extent it was during his limited time as a Ranger. During his time in the Astros and Yankees farm systems, he was a respected prospect but was forced into the bullpen due to a lack of oversight. That has been confirmed in his work in the big league, as the Dominican native handled an increased 12.2% percentage of opponents over 36 2/3 frames last season with New York – his first with an extended workload at the level the big league.
That Abreu, despite his control issues, has garnered the interest of a handful of teams is a testament to his high-octane stuff. He’s hit nearly 98 MPH on his fastball in each of his last two seasons, showing elite arm speed. He backs that up with a Upper ’80s Slider and Changeup, each of which received strong reviews from potential reviewers, and the Breaking Ball was a quality MLB-level swing-and-miss offering.
With this kind of arsenal, it’s not hard to dream of Abreu having a future in a big league bullpen. Though his patchy control limits him to lower-leverage work, the royals can hope to tease better results from his intriguing pitch mix. If they can, Abreu could be a long-term option. He won’t eclipse his first full year in MLB service until this season, meaning he would be controllable by the end of the 2027 season. However, he no longer has minor league option years, meaning Kansas City must keep him on the active roster or make him available to opposing clubs themselves.
That the royals have parted ways with a young arm to acquire Abreu suggests they are ready to offer him the opportunity. Kansas City is close to the top of the league in relinquishment priority, but they parted ways with Morel to ensure no other team acquired abreu via a trade of their own. It’s the second trade of Morel’s career as it was dealt casually by the Nationals Kelvin Gutierrez and Blake Perkins in the 2018 swap that was sent Kelvin Herrera to Washington.
Morel, 21, was quite a respected prospect very early in his career. He has twice appeared in Baseball America’s list of the top 30 minor league talents in the Kansas City system, but has not been featured for the past two years due to struggling at High-A. Morel switched to the bullpen last season but was tagged for a 6.66 ERA in 50 innings. The royals decided not to include him in the 40-man list before draft Rule 5 (which never leaked) and he repeated the level in 2022.
Through 17 2/3 innings this season, Morel has a more apt 4.09 ERA. He defeated 25.9% of opponents with an increased walk rate of 12.3%. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin wrote last week that his arsenal is spearheaded by a plus-split changeup. He will be eligible again under Rule 5 this winter if he doesn’t earn a spot on the Texas 40-man list.
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