HomeMLB RumorsRangers To Sign Michael Lorenzen

Rangers To Sign Michael Lorenzen

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The Rangers are in agreement with free agent starter Michael Lorenzen on a one-year, $4.5MM contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic (X link). The deal, which is pending a physical, contains another $2.5MM in performance bonuses. Lorenzen is a client of CAA Sports.

Aside from Jordan Montgomery, Lorenzen was arguably the best starter still available. The right-hander had reportedly waited out the market in search of a multi-year pact. That evidently didn’t materialize, as he instead inks a one-year deal for the third straight offseason. After securing respective $6.75MM and $8.5MM contracts in the last two winters, he winds up taking a reduced rate for the 2024 season.

That’s certainly not what he’d been hoping for on the heels of the first All-Star nod of his career. Lorenzen appeared on his way to a two- or potentially three-year pact midway through the year. He turned in strong numbers over 18 starts with the Tigers, working to a 3.58 ERA across 105 2/3 innings. A sub-20% strikeout rate raised a question as to whether he could sustain that kind of run prevention, but he nevertheless was one of the better rental starters available at the deadline.

Detroit flipped Lorenzen to the Phillies for second base prospect Hao-Yu Lee. His initial two starts with the Phils couldn’t have gone better. He tossed eight innings of two-run ball in Miami during his team debut. In his first home appearance at Citizens Bank Park, he no-hit the Nationals. That he tossed 124 pitches in that game wasn’t ideal, but skipper Rob Thomson gave him the leeway to complete that historic outing.

Things quickly went downhill after that appearance. Nine days later, Lorenzen faced the same Washington lineup at Nationals Park. He was tagged for seven runs in 3 1/3 innings. That kicked off a stretch of six consecutive appearances in which he allowed at least four runs. That included a relief outing on September 19 in which Lorenzen retired one of seven batters faced against the Braves.

To his credit, Lorenzen finished the regular season with a trio of scoreless relief outings. He’d already fallen down the leverage hierarchy by that point though. The Phils used him just twice in their run to the NLCS. He worked 2 2/3 scoreless frames in mop-up situations during the postseason.

That Lorenzen moved to the bullpen wasn’t a surprise in itself. The Phils acknowledged at the time of his acquisition that they could eventually squeeze him out and go with a five-man staff of Zack WheelerAaron NolaRanger SuárezTaijuan Walker and Cristopher Sánchez. Yet there’s no denying the last six weeks didn’t go anywhere close to plan. He allowed 30 runs (27 earned) with an 18:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 30 1/3 innings.

Whether that finish was more a reflection of Lorenzen wearing down after the no-hitter or about his middling peripherals catching up to him, it was a sour conclusion to what was a solid season. His first 20 starts were strong enough that his overall line was right around league average. Lorenzen finished the year with a 4.18 ERA through a personal-high 153 innings. He’d posted a similar 4.24 mark over 97 2/3 frames with the Angels in 2022, his first season as a starter since his 2015 rookie campaign.

While last year’s 17.8% strikeout percentage and 9.4% swinging strike rate were each below average, he trimmed his walks to a modest 7.5% clip. He mixed five pitches, headlined by a four-seam fastball that sat a little above 94 MPH on average. Lorenzen’s aggregate production looked like that of a strike-throwing #4/5 starter. While that’s perhaps not the most exciting profile, it explains why his camp thought a multi-year deal should’ve been on the table. Within the past two offseasons, players like Drew Smyly ($19MM), Jordan Lyles ($17MM), and KBO returnee Erick Fedde ($15MM) secured two-year pacts.

It’s impossible to know whether that would’ve been attainable earlier in the offseason, but the market hasn’t been favorable for the players who remain unsigned deep into Spring Training. Lorenzen’s one-year deal trails those inked by Alex Wood ($8.5MM), Martín Pérez ($8MM), Jakob Junis ($7MM) and James Paxton ($7MM) earlier in the winter.

On the plus side, the 32-year-old gets an opportunity with a contender. He joins the defending World Series winners to help a rotation that’ll be without each of Max ScherzerTyler Mahle and Jacob deGrom for a couple months. Texas still has a solid front four of Nathan EovaldiJon GrayDane Dunning and Andrew Heaney. Left-hander Cody Bradford struggled in a swing role last season but has pitched well this spring. GM Chris Young said last weekend that Bradford earned the fifth starter role, but it’s possible he’ll be nudged back into relief at some point.

Lorenzen might not be ready to step right into the Texas rotation. His extended free agent stay kept him from pitching competitively this spring. He has been throwing on his own, reportedly tossing 70 pitches earlier in the week, yet that’s not a perfect substitute for game action. Bradford may still take a turn or two through the rotation before moving to a swing role as the top depth option in case anyone ahead of him suffers an injury.

The signing pushes the team’s player payroll to the $224MM range, as calculated by RosterResource. They’re around $248MM in luxury tax commitments. Texas is set to pay the competitive balance tax for a second consecutive season. That means they’re taxed at a 30% rate on spending between $237MM and $257MM. Adding Lorenzen comes with another $1.35MM in CBT commitments, pushing the overall guarantee to roughly $5.85MM.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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