Lorenzen headed to Texas on 1-year deal

March 22nd, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers general manager Chris Young has been adamant throughout his time at the helm of the club that you can never have too much starting pitching.

And despite his continued confidence in how Texas’ rotation looked going into Opening Day -- “The group we have is the group we have. They're a great group,” he said last week -- that sentiment clearly remained true.

Right-hander Michael Lorenzen signed a one-year deal with the Rangers. The deal is for $4.5 million, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, and includes $2.5 million in incentives and maxes out at $7 million.

To make room for Lorenzen on the 40-man roster, the club has placed right-handed pitcher Jacob deGrom on the 60-day injured list as he continues recovery from right elbow surgery.

“This is really a very good signing for us, and I am grateful to ownership for stepping up and allowing us to make this move,” said Young. “I think Michael is going to be a huge addition to our team and help get us through the early part of the season, especially when we may be a little thin with our pitching.”

The 32-year-old Lorenzen gives the Rangers possible depth in the rotation. With deGrom, Max Scherzer and the recently signed Tyler Mahle all delayed until at least the summer with various injuries, the Rangers' rotation is headed at the moment by veteran Nathan Eovaldi, with Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning and Cody Bradford slotting in behind him.

The rotation depth falls off afterwards, with prospects Owen White, Cole Winn and Zak Kent standing as the next men up if one of the top five were to go down. All three were recently optioned back to Triple-A Round Rock after competing for a potential spot in the big league rotation or bullpen in camp.

Jordan Montgomery, whom the Rangers acquired along with Scherzer to bolster the rotation at the 2023 Trade Deadline, remains unsigned and will seemingly not be reunited with Texas going into the regular season.

It’s unclear exactly what role Lorenzen will play early in the season due to the timing of the signing, but it now appears that Bradford will begin the season in the rotation as Lorenzen gets built up. The 26-year-old lefty will likely eventually transition back to the bullpen, where he had a 2.82 ERA last season, compared to 6.95 as a starter.

Lorenzen has undergone an interesting career arc. After making 21 starts as a rookie for the Reds in 2015, Lorenzen slid into a relief role for the next half-decade. Lorenzen also operated as a quasi two-way player -- he was both a pitcher and outfielder in college at Cal State Fullerton -- by posting a .710 OPS with seven home runs across 147 plate appearances through 2021. When Lorenzen signed with the Angels prior to the ‘22 season, he reverted back to the rotation, tossing 18 starts with a respectable 4.24 ERA and 3.91 expected ERA.

That performance led to Lorenzen signing a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Tigers for the ‘23 season -- a deal that looked like one of the best offseason moves for most of the year. Lorenzen was a first-time All-Star with Detroit, pitching to the tune of a 3.58 ERA across 18 starts for the Tigers. He was traded to the Phillies at the Deadline and immediately provided his value in Philly, tossing a no-hitter in his first home start against the Nationals on Aug. 9.

It was a rough ending to the season after that for Lorenzen, who posted an 8.01 ERA and 1.91 WHIP across his final 30 1/3 innings. He was demoted to the bullpen later in the season and appeared in just two playoff outings for the Phillies. Part of that might have been natural regression to his career norms. Part of it might have been due to fatigue, with Lorenzen blowing way past his previous career-high in innings (113 1/3) by throwing 153 innings.

There’s still plenty of intrigue for the veteran pitcher who turned 32 in January. He’s transitioned into the rotation relatively smoothly and looks like a reasonable back-end starter who can provide 125-150 innings. Maybe most encouraging for his new team is that Lorenzen’s stuff has held up in the rotation while dropping his walk rate to 7.5 percent in ‘23 -- the second-lowest rate of his career. If Lorenzen’s trajectory as a starter goes off course, there’s always the option of putting him back in the bullpen.

Additionally, if and when Scherzer, Mahle and deGrom return from their respective injuries, it will be easy for Lorenzen to transition back to the bullpen at that point as well.

“[That] is one of the things that I love about Michael: he knows that guys are coming back,” Young said. “He's going to have the opportunity to start here, and he knows guys are coming back and that didn't faze him. He wants to win, first and foremost, and just said he understands this is a performance-based game. We're really excited that he's here.”