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Michael Lorenzen hopes for free agency rotation opportunity


For seven seasons with the Reds, right-hander Michael lorenzen has been used quite uniquely. The 29-year-old former No.38 overall pick started 21 games as a rookie before settling as a reliever. He also spent 96 innings in the outfield, including 81 in the center, and even played a handful of full games as a center fielder in 2019. He’s not Shohei Ohtani, but Lorenzen’s .233 / .282 .429 batting line and his seven career homers in 147 home plate appearances make him one of the most productive pitchers in the game with a stick in his hands.

At various points in his career, Lorenzen was scheduled to audition for another opportunity in the Cincinnati rotation, but spring training injuries ensued. Now, as he enters the free agent market, the 29-year-old right-hander is hoping to sign with a club that will give him the chance to compete for a spot in the starting rotation, writes Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The 2021 season has been a tough one for Lorenzen, who suffered shoulder strain in spring training at a time when the Reds were planning to give him another chance to start. As the right-hander explains to Nightengale, he suffered grade 3 hamstring strain as he lined up a cavity against the Pirates on August 8 – shortly after returning from the shoulder injury. Rather than being on the injured list, Lorenzen somehow found a way to get over the injury on the stretch. Unsurprisingly, it was not a productive race, but with so many injuries elsewhere in the Cincinnati paddock, Lorenzen gutted things.

A glance at Lorenzen’s numbers for 2021 won’t generate much enthusiasm. The right-hander finished the year with a 5.59 ERA, a 16.8 percent take-out rate, an 11.2 percent walk rate and a 44.8 percent take-down rate. Rather, ERA is heavily skewed by Lorenzen’s last two appearances of the season, in which he got eight points combined in just 1 2/3 frames. Prior to that, he had worked with a solid 3.62 ERA with an 18.9% strikeout rate and a 9.0% walk rate. Considering it was never (or only briefly) at full power, it was a pretty impressive appearance until this last pair of games.

Lorenzen believes he will spark interest in a variety of roles, and many teams will surely be more eager to hook him up in the reliever box than to give him a legitimate chance to start. From 2016 to 2020, Lorenzen racked up 331 innings in the Cincinnati reliever box and achieved a cumulative ERA of 3.48 with a strikeout rate of 21.6%, a walk rate of 9% and a 44.8% ground ball rate. He missed the first two and a half months of Season 16 with elbow strain and six weeks in 2018 with shoulder strain, but Lorenzen still averaged 66 2/3 innings per season – and that includes last year’s shortened schedule.

Given his track record in the pen, one would imagine that Lorenzen’s most lucrative deals will be launching in relief next season. The right-hander tells Nightengale, however, that he’s “ready to bet on [himself]»In free agency this winter if the right situation arises. Presumably all of the start-up opportunities would be on a low-cost deal with quite a few incentives – perhaps some based on both start-up and relief.

This year’s injury-marred results notwithstanding, Lorenzen has a strong track record in the pen, up to six different locations (featured by a heater that averaged 96.9 mph in 2021), an excellent bat compared to other pitchers and strong defensive skills in the outfield. Statcast ranked him at the 95th percentile in sprint speed in 2017, and his speed of 28.8 fps in 2019 tied him at 68th among 564 big league players. Beyond raw speed, Statcast ranks him at +2 above average as an outfielder, while Defensive Runs Saved puts him at +1 in those 96 career innings. A rough projection of 2021 will likely keep the price low, but it will be one of the more attractive low buy options in the offseason market, regardless of what role it lands.