December 20: The Tigers have officially announced the signing.
December 14: The Tigers are reportedly in agreement with free agent starter Michael Lorenzen. It’s a one-year, $8.5MM guarantee for the CAA Sports client. The deal, which is pending a physical, also contains $1.5MM in possible incentives.
Lorenzen spent one season in Orange County. Primarily a reliever over seven years with the Reds, he hit the open market for the first time last offseason in search of a rotation opportunity. Lorenzen inked a one-year, $6.75MM pact with the Halos. It was a homecoming for the Anaheim native and Cal State Fullerton product. The season didn’t go entirely as planned, though, as he lost a couple months after suffering a shoulder strain in early July.
The right-hander returned late in the season, making five starts to close out the year. He worked five-plus innings while allowing three or fewer runs in each, finishing his year on a high note despite the Angels being well out of contention. On the season, Lorenzen made 18 starts and tallied 97 2/3 innings — a bit more than 5 1/3 frames per appearance. He pitched to a decent 4.24 ERA while inducing grounders on just over half the batted balls he allowed.
It was a fairly encouraging showing, although Lorenzen’s strikeout and walk marks were a bit worse than average. His 20.7% strikeout rate was a touch below the 21.6% league mark for starters. More concerning was a 10.7% walk percentage that was more than three points higher than average. Of the 153 starters with 70+ innings pitched, only six doled out free passes more frequently than Lorenzen.
Despite his inconsistent strike-throwing, Lorenzen showed enough to intrigue the Tigers to give him a second rotation shot. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that Detroit plans to use him as a starter. He becomes the second roll of the dice for first-year president of baseball operations Scott Harris and his front office. The Tigers reunited with lefty Matt Boyd on a $10MM guarantee this month, giving him a chance to right the ship after losing much of the 2022 campaign to recovery from flexor surgery.
There are certainly reasons for optimism the 30-year-old Lorenzen (31 next month) could offer solid production out of the rotation. He has a deep arsenal, relying on each of his four-seam, sinker, changeup and slider more than 20% of the time and turning to a cutter for around 10% of his offerings in 2022. His changeup generated plenty of swinging strikes and his sinker was effective both as a swing-and-miss and ground-ball offering.
Lorenzen’s well-rounded arsenal helped him limit opponents to a meager .181/.272/.278 line during their third time through the order this past season, albeit with a fairly modest 17.3% strikeout rate. From a platoon perspective, Lorenzen had similar strikeout rates and plus ground-ball numbers against hitters of either handedness. He nibbled around the strike zone far too often against southpaws, however, walking 14.4% of the left-handed batters he faced.
Boyd and Lorenzen join Eduardo Rodríguez, Matt Manning and Spencer Turnbull in the anticipated season-opening rotation. Tarik Skubal will join the group once healthy, though he’s expected to miss some time after undergoing flexor surgery in August. Joey Wentz, Beau Brieske and Alex Faedo are on hand to compete for depth roles behind that group, while Casey Mize is expected to miss most or all of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer.
There’s substantial upside but also plenty of risk. Turnbull missed all of 2022 recovering from his own TJ procedure. Lorenzen, Boyd, Manning and Rodríguez lost huge stretches of the year, and Lorenzen hasn’t topped 20 starts since his 2015 rookie campaign in Cincinnati. It’s possible the Tigers look for another arm to add some stable innings to the mix, but the acquisitions of Boyd and Lorenzen suggest Harris’ staff prioritized upside over floor in their rotation pickups. That’s a sensible approach, as Detroit faces an uphill path to contention in 2023. If Boyd and/or Lorenzen can stay healthy and pitch well in the season’s first half, they’d likely be more desirable trade targets to a contender than a lower-upside innings eater would be.
With Lorenzen on the books, Detroit’s 2023 projected player payroll now sits around $124MM at Roster Resource. That’s still below this past season’s $135MM Opening Day mark, so the front office should have the freedom to identify a few more lower-cost targets of interest. Adding at catcher, third base and in the corner outfield could all be under consideration after the Tigers hit a woeful .231/.286/.346 this year.
Robert Murray of FanSided first reported the Tigers were in agreement with Lorenzen. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic was first to report it was a one-year, $8.5MM guarantee with $1.5MM in performance incentives.
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