The Texas Rangers have traded Albert Abreu to the Kansas City Royals for Yohanse Morel, the team announced last night. Abreu, a righthanded relief pitcher, had been designated for assignment earlier this week to make room on the roster for Josh Smith.
Abreu, 26, was acquired by the Rangers right before the season started, along with Robby Ahlstrom, from the New York Yankees in exchange for catcher Jose Trevino. With the Rangers have acquired Mitch Garver from the Minnesota Twins, Trevino and Jonah Heim were competing for the backup catcher job this spring. Once Heim won the job, the Rangers opted to deal Trevino, even though Garver’s injury history suggested that the Rangers might have wanted to stash Trevino in AAA as insurance.
Trevino, who slashed .245/.270/.364 in 519 plate appearances for the Rangers, is off to a .275/.318/.413 start for the Yankees in 33 games, lending credence to the “everyone plays better when they join the Yankees” theory. He is sharing playing time behind the plate with Kyle Higashioka.
Abreu was a top 100 prospect once upon a time, originally acquired by the Yankees from the Houston Astros in the deal that sent Brian McCann to Houston after the 2016 season. Despite having a big time arm, the Yankees ending up moving Abreu this spring due to his inability to consistently throw strikes and the fact that he was out of options.
Those same two reasons ultimately resulted in Abreu being designated for assignment by the Rangers. While he had a 3.12 ERA in 8.2 IP for the Rangers, that came with an 8.57 FIP and a 6.74 xERA, due to Abreu walking 12 of the 42 batters he faced. With everyone else who was in the Rangers’ bullpen pitching well — the only two Ranger relievers with an ERA over 3.38 right now are Brett Martin, at 4.42, and Garrett Richards, at 4.24 — and with Jose Leclerc and Jonathan Hernandez due back soon, there was no room for the Rangers to keep carrying Abreu.
Ahlstrom, who turns 23 this month, has been at Down East, and after a couple of bad outings to start the season, has a 2.42 ERA in 26 innings in his last six starts, and over his last two outings he has allowed one earned run in 11 innings, striking out 12 against no walks. A 7th rounder out of the University of Oregon in 2021, one would suspect Ahlstrom will move up to Hickory at some point this summer.
Morel, 21, is a righthanded reliever who has spent the Midwest League, which used to be low-A but which is now high-A. I am still having a hard time keeping all that straight. Anyway, he has struck out 21 batters and walked ten in 17.2 IP this year, with a 4.08 ERA.
Morel was listed by BA as the Royals’ #19 prospect heading into 2019 and their #30 prospect heading into 2020, but has dropped out of the list since. He was acquired by the Royals from the Washington Nationals in the deal that sent Kelvin Herrera to the Nats.
Morel didn’t make the Fangraphs top 47 prospect rankings for the Royals, which came out last week, but was in the “others receiving votes” notes. Fangraphs gives him a plus splitter and a 45 sinker and slider.