HomeOther Philly SportsAll-Star pitcher receives interest from Orioles

All-Star pitcher receives interest from Orioles

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The Orioles have been connected to various starting pitching targets all winter, and that search is ongoing. General manager Mike Elias said so himself, telling reporters such as Andy Kostka of The Baltimore Banner. Elias hasn’t ruled out a free-agent addition but says the club’s farm system makes a trade more likely. In terms of free-agent pursuits, Jon Morosi of MLB.com lists Michael Lorenzen as one they have shown interest in.

Pitching is a clear target area of the club’s roster. They are loaded with position players, but the rotation is lacking in certainty. Kyle Gibson and Jack Flaherty each became free agents after last season and have since signed elsewhere.

Both Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez finished the year strong, but the former has less than two years of big league experience and the latter less than one. John Means will be in the mix but he hasn’t pitched much over the past two years due to Tommy John surgery. Dean Kremer should be in the back end somewhere after posting a 4.12 ERA last year. Cole Irvin could be a factor but he struggled last year, getting moved to the bullpen and the minors throughout the year. Guys like Tyler Wells, Bruce Zimmermann or Cade Povich could factor in as well. Elias also said that DL Hall is still viewed as a starter in the long term, per Kostka, but may remain in the bullpen for the short term.

For a club that just won 101 games and is looking to compete again this year, there’s clearly room for upgrades there. The Orioles should have the ability to make any kind of move they want, due to their payroll and organizational situations. MLBTR’s Contract Tracker shows that they haven’t given a free agent a multiyear deal since signing Alex Cobb in 2018. That means their future ledger is wide-open, and their 2024 payroll is only at $81M, per Roster Resource. That’s a jump from last year’s Opening Day figure but still bottom three in the league for this year, ahead of only the Athletics and Pirates.

They also have a stacked farm system, considered by many to be the strongest in the league. With that combination of an elite farm system and a clean payroll slate, the options are theoretically endless. Throughout the winter, they have been connected to all sorts of arms. That includes one of the top free agents in Aaron Nola, though he subsequently re-signed with the Phillies. It also includes the lower tiers of free agency, with guys like James Paxton and Domingo Germán having been connected to the O’s, but Paxton is now reportedly in agreement with the Dodgers. The Orioles have also been interested in trade candidates like Dylan Cease and Corbin Burnes.

Despite all of that interest, they have yet to pull the trigger on any move to address their rotation, with pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training in less than three weeks. Elias continues to insist that a trade is a likely path forward, though it remains to be seen if they can get anything done. The asking price on Cease is reportedly very high, with the White Sox asking for multiple top prospects. The possibility of the Brewers trading Burnes has seemingly faded as the offseason has progressed.

On the free agent side of things, Lorenzen is apparently another name they have considered. The 32-year-old spent much of his career as a reliever with the Reds but has been pursuing a return to starting work since reaching free agency. He signed with the Angels in 2022 and was able to make 18 starts and log 97 2/3 innings. His 4.24 ERA was passable in that time. His 20.7% strikeout rate and 10.7% walk rate were a bit worse than average, but his 50.2% ground ball rate was strong.

That wasn’t astounding production but a step in the right director in terms of workload. In 2023, he seemed to take another step forward after signing with the Tigers. Through midseason, he had already made 18 starts and thrown 105 2/3 innings. He had dropped his ERA to 3.58 and lowered his walk rate to 6.5%. He was traded to the Phillies and kept the good times rolling for a while. He allowed two earned runs over eight innings in his first start as a Phillie and then threw a no-hitter in his second.

From that point, things went off the rails. Lorenzen was shelled for 27 earned runs in his final 30 1/3 innings, getting bumped to the bullpen in the process. It’s fair to wonder if he simply ran out of gas. After years of working out of the bullpen, he pushed himself to almost 100 innings in 2022. After the no-hitter, which took him 124 pitches, he was at 122 2/3 innings in 2023 with a 3.23 ERA. The rough finish added almost a full run to his ERA, pushing it to 4.18 for the year overall.

Arguably, another year of pushing himself in terms of innings could lessen the late-season drop-off. At the start of the offseason, MLBTR predicted Lorenzen for a two-year, $22M deal. His market has been fairly quiet this winter but he reportedly held a showcase for interested clubs earlier this week.

Elsewhere in Oriole news, manager Brandon Hyde says that righty Dillon Tate is healthy and looked “unbelievable” recently, per Kostka. Tate didn’t pitch in the majors in 2023, as he was diagnosed with a forearm/flexor strain in November of 2022 and wasn’t able to get healthy last year. He went on multiple rehab assignments but was never returned to the big leagues. When he was last healthy, he threw 73 2/3 innings for the O’s in 2022 with a 3.05 ERA, 20.5% strikeout rate, 5.5% walk rate and 57.4% ground-ball rate. If he is back in good form, it could be a boon for the bullpen.

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