It’s harder to come up with a more intelligent way to spend your allowance than getting two players for the price of one, which may be what the Cubs are thinking with their pursuit of pitching. Former Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen has been on the radar already this offseason because he checks some boxes for Jed Hoyer as a hard thrower who might only command a prove-it deal after a down year.
He reportedly wants a chance to start again, a desire that was confirmed by Joe Doyle of Prospects Live. Doyle added that Lorenzen wants “the opportunity to get regular at-bats as an outfielder” in a manner similar to Shohei Ohtani. The Rangers, Pirates, Giants, and Cubs were listed among the teams believed to have inquired.
RHP Michael Lorenzen not only wants a shot at being a starting pitcher in 2022, but also wants the opportunity to get regular at-bats as an outfielder. Wants to get on the Ohtani routine. The Rangers, Pirates, Cubs and Giants are all believed to have inquired.
— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) November 28, 2021
The Giants don’t really seem like a good fit if Lorenzen truly wants a shot to play both ways since they’ve already added or retained two starters and could bring Kevin Gausman back as well. The Rangers are looking to spend and might be amenable to this if they don’t find value elsewhere and the Pirates would surely love a bargain. We’ve already outlined how Lorenzen makes sense for the Cubs, though they should also get a more proven starter.
The righty is a bit of an anomaly in that he has a big fastball that averages 97 mph, yet he relies a lot less on strikeouts than you’d expect. To wit, his career 19.9% K-rate is more than two points below the MLB average of the last seven years. While that could throw up some red flags, his five-pitch mix and ability to keep the ball in the yard bode well for a move to the rotation.
As for playing regularly in the field, well, we’ve seen that jacked physique patrolling the grass previously. Lorenzen has made six starts in the outfield, all in center, and has logged 96 total innings across all three positions. Even though the sample is too small to be trusted, he’s actually been pretty darn good out there with one defensive run saved and 4.9 UZR/150.
He’s also been pretty darn good at the plate, especially for someone who got such sporadic opportunities, popping seven homers with a .710 OPS and .195 ISO in 147 plate appearances. That comes out to about 29 homers in a full season, though Lorenzen won’t be logging 600 PAs even if his new team does give him a shot at fulfilling his wishes.
That’s where the Cubs could start to look like an even better potential fit, since their incumbent starting outfielders — Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, and Rafael Ortega — primarily bat left-handed. Nico Hoerner and Patrick Wisdom will presumably flex out there from time to time, but having another short-side platoon outfielder on the roster can’t hurt. Even better, Lorenzen wouldn’t take up a roster spot as a position player.
Maybe it’s just the Cubs’ general lack of activity on the free agent market, but I think I’ve convinced myself that this is a good idea. If nothing else, it’s a fun gimmick. Assuming Lorenzen is indeed looking for a short-term deal to show off his athleticism and boost his value as a starter, I really like the potential for high reward at low risk.
Update: Lorenzen has agreed to a one-year deal for “around $7 million” that will see him in the Angels rotation. He really did want to be the next Ohtani.
Free-agent pitcher Michael Lorenzen and the Los Angeles Angels are in agreement on a one-year deal worth around $7 million, pending physical, according to sources familiar with the situation. Lorenzen is going to be in the Angels’ rotation.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) November 29, 2021