Trading for Michael Lorenzen of the Detroit Tigers isn't an exciting move. It's the type of acquisition that smart teams make to raise the floor of their roster talent, add depth, and protect themselves for a stretch run. The Brewers will not give up the prospect capital needed to make a swap for Justin Verlander or Aaron Civale, especially with Wade Miley back on Wednesday and Brandon Woodruff (hopefully) close behind, but even with those two, Milwaukee needs reinforcements in the rotation.
Lorenzen owns a 3.68 ERA (122 ERA+) in 18 starts this year. A first-time All-Star, Lorenzen has dropped his WHIP to 1.10 and walk percentage (BB%) to 6.5%--both his best marks since 2016, when he was mainly a reliever. Lorenzen pitched exclusively as a starter in 2022 and has improved in that role again in 2023. Even better, Lorenzen has a 1.14 ERA and .169 batting average against him in four July starts.
Meanwhile, the Brewers should be in the market for a starter, because of the recent outings by the bottom half of their rotation, a struggle many thought would eventually come after early success. Julio Teheran has an 8.89 ERA in his last five starts (4.74 ERA on the season) and is now on the injured list. Colin Rea owns a 5.11 ERA across his previous eight starts, and is up to 4.76 on the year. Adrian Houser has a 4.93 ERA in his last five starts. This trio allowed 20 earned runs in their three outings over the weekend. Whether it was against the best team in baseball or not, that isn't going to cut it. Lorenzen can bring stability to the rotation and push Houser to the bullpen, where he has been far more effective in his career (1.76 ERA).
No one is saying Lorenzen will be a dominant option as a starter. Detractors would point to his 19.9% strikeout rate (K%) and .264 BABIP as possible concerns moving forward. But the limited walks, high fastball spin rate and a five-pitch mix make him an intriguing potential weapon for a Brewers staff that often does wonders with hurlers. Plus, Lorenzen's FIP sits at 3.88, which is impressive for someone not getting a ton of whiffs. Milwaukee also has no issues backing pitchers who allow hitters to put the ball in play, as the Crew's defense has been among the best all season.
Lorenzen is a free agent following the season, so his trade value shouldn't be too high. However, at least three or four other teams have been linked to the Tigers' 31-year-old righty. One would assume Detroit would be interested in a decent pitching prospect in return. Still, it's impossible to know how clubs value players, and if they'd rather have one higher-ceiling prospect or two mid-level guys to increase their chance of a successful acquisition, the fit could be easy. Would a pitcher outside the Brewers' top-30 prospects and one of Milwaukee's countless outfielders with high-quality raw tools be enough to swing a deal?
If Milwaukee did pick up Lorenzen, the arms over the final six weeks of 2023 (with Woodruff back in a week or so) look deeper, and give the group better overall quality:
Long reliever - Bryse Wilson
Right-hand specialist - Adrian Houser
Left-handed specialist - Hoby Milner
Middle reliever - Peter Strzelecki/Aaron Ashby/other
Middle reliever - Abner Uribe
Set-up - Elvis Peguero
Set-up - Joel Payamps
Closers - Devin Williams
*Colin Rea optioned to Triple-A
**Julio Teheran designated for assignment
This pitching staff gives manager Craig Counsell plenty of flexibility and creative options. It keeps the rotation covered if there are injuries, and should the Brewers get to the postseason, Lorenzen could easily slide into the bullpen to add another experienced arm to the middle innings.
Milwaukee has yet to be linked to Lorenzen, and in Ken Rosenthal's latest notes column, he says Teheran's injury won't lead the Brewers to wade into the starting pitching market. Yet, the Brewers have historically kept things quiet when working on a deal. Does GM Matt Arnold have this particular hurler in mind? Would it be worth it for the Brewers to pursue him? The deadline is fast approaching, and Lorenzen is almost certain to be moved to a contender.
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