In the aftermath of the Juan Soto trade, in which the Yankees sent away Michael King, one hole has been left mostly unfilled. King was a vital arm out of the bullpen and moved to the rotation for the end of 2023 to great success. The Yankees signed Marcus Stroman to help carry the load, and with Clarke Schmidt slated to be the fifth starter, they could use another hurler with the ability to bounce between the back end of the rotation and the bullpen. Former “pitcher who rakes” and the owner of MLB’s most recent no-hitter, Michael Lorenzen, could fit that role well.
2023 Statistics: 29 games, 25 starts, 153 IP, 4.18 ERA (105 ERA+), 4.46 FIP, 4.68 xFIP, 17.8 K%, 7.5 BB%, 1.7 fWAR
2024 FanGraphs Depth Charts Projections: 28 games, 155 IP, 4.71 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 18.8 K%, 8.3 BB%, 1.3 fWAR
Lorenzen, entering his age-32 season, is coming off a year where he saw his most time on a major league mound, and it was one of his better overall years to date. It was nothing unbelievable, 4.18 ERA in 153 innings, but he was no slouch. A roughly league-average hurler who tossed over 150 innings is certainly worth something.
The right-hander came up as (mostly) a starter for the Reds back in 2015, working 113.1 innings in 27 games, 21 of which were starts. His debut was underwhelming with a 5.40 FIP and an ERA to match, and he would not see that many innings again until last season. A move to the ‘pen was in order, and it was a mostly successful one. For Cincinnati from 2016-21, he made just five starts but overall managed to post a respectable 3.92 FIP in 360 innings of work, predominantly in relief.
After signing consecutive one-year deals in free agency, first with the Angels and then with Detroit, Lorenzen is on the market again. In the case of both of these signings, however, Lorenzen was brought on as a starter. He was only able to make 18 starts for the Angels in ‘22, and was fine enough, but he made the same amount for the Tigers in the first half of last season, and was able to find some real success.
In 105.2 innings of work, he managed a very solid 3.58 ERA and 3.86 FIP, both of which would place among his better seasons overall, and easily his best as a starter. The righty pitched well enough to be selected as the Tigers’ representative at the All-Star Game, before ultimately being dealt to the contending Phillies.
His start there was a resoundingly good one, beginning with an eight-inning, two-run start, followed by his no-hitter on August 9. But, over his next five starts, his production fell off a cliff, as he posted a FIP of 7.45 in a brutal 26-inning stretch, during which he also surrendered eight homers. Another move to the ‘pen was on tap, and after one more beating there (3 H, 3 BB, 4ER in 0.1 IP), he finished the season on a high note with a few scoreless appearances, including a pair in the postseason as the Phillies made their way to the NLCS.
So, this winter, Lorenzen and potential suitors have themselves a mixed bag: an All-Star worthy first half as a starter, and some of his worst (and best) performances in the second. With this in mind, Lorenzen’s deal likely won’t be an overly lucrative one, and his experience could fit well on a Yankees pitching staff that will at one point or another need help on the back end. We saw what just a few injuries and down years can do to a rotation last year, and having a league-average pitcher like Lorenzen to fill in those spots and in the bullpen could help soften those inevitable blows.
Lorenzen is far from perfect, of course, with his stumbling finish last year, and his near career-low strikeout rate. But, he has been fairly consistent over his nine-year career with his 105 ERA+. His walk rate in 2023 was easily his best since his first year of relief work in 2016, but the workload of starting took its obvious toll, as the right-hander surrendered the hardest contact of his career amidst a dip in pitch velocity.
Again, we find ourselves with a mixed bag, but even with that in mind, there’s good reason to believe he’ll maintain his modest but useful production on the mound in any role. Aside from a few top arms left on the starting pitching market, Lorenzen is among the more notable names left, and likely won’t demand a huge payday, with FanGraphs’ crowdsourced projections calling for two years and $20 million. If the price is right for them, adding a veteran arm that can work in the rotation and the bullpen could fill a noticeable gap in the Yankees roster, one that becomes even more pressing when the injuries begin piling up.