Cincinnati Reds: Cost cutting will force Michael Lorenzen to be starter

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 3: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 3: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Michael Lorenzen will likely be the Reds No. 5 starter in 2021.

There is a great hope among Cincinnati Reds fans that the front office will find a way to re-sign Trevor Bauer. I hate to break it to you, but based on what we’ve seen through the first few days of the offseason, that isn’t likely to happen. I find it much more likely that Michael Lorenzen will take on the role of starting pitcher in 2021.

In case you haven’t noticed, teams across the league are cutting payroll across the board. The Milwaukee Brewers declined their team option for slugger Ryan Braun, Darren O’Day was cut loose by the Atlanta Braves and Brad Hand was put on outright waivers by the Cleveland Indians. I believe this is just the beginning.

When we enter the “non-tender” season, look for several players to be looking to relocate. The Reds will have a few tough decisions themselves. Curt Casali, Brian Goodwin, Robert Stephenson and maybe even Archie Bradley could be non-tendered by Cincinnati this winter in an effort to save money.

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The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world’s economy and the baseball world is not immune. Despite reduced player salaries in 2020, Major League Baseball is still likely to be in the red due in part to having no fans in the ballpark throughout the season. There’s still questions as to whether or not fans will return in 2021.

With so much uncertainty, teams are likely to be looking at many different avenues in order to save a few bucks here and a few bucks there. For the Cincinnati Reds, they’re already on the hook for $88M in guaranteed contracts for next season, and that doesn’t include Nick Castellanos’ $14M option, which he’s likely to pick up.

Throw in an estimated $20M-$30M (via MLB Trade Rumors) for what’s likely due to the team’s nine arbitration eligible players, and Cincinnati is looking at a payroll of at least $125M heading into the 2021 season. That likely takes the Reds out of the running for Trevor Bauer and turns their attention inside the organization in order to find a replacement.

That’s where Michael Lorenzen comes in. With four (Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle and Wade Miley) of the Reds five starting spots on lockdown, only one slot in the starting rotation remains unfilled. While some may think Tejay Antone or Nick Lodolo would be a good option, I’m looking to Lorenzen.

There’s many reasons for Mikey Biceps to enter the conversation to be part of the starting rotation in 2021, not the least of which is money. A quick peek at the Reds payroll will show that if Lorenzen remains in the bullpen, Cincinnati is likely to dole out approximately $12M to three players (Lorenzen, Amir Garrett and Archie Bradley).

Throw into the equation another $9.125M due to closer Raisel Iglesias, and half the Cincinnati bullpen would account for over $20M in salary. That’s a hefty price tag, and one that in a normal year wouldn’t be exorbitant, but this is 2020. Taking Lorenzen’s estimated $3.8M-$4.4M and replacing his spot in the pen with a pre-arbitration player seems more cost effective.

The Cincinnati Reds turned to Lorenzen on more than one occasion last season as a starting pitcher and the results were solid. In his two starts, Michael Lorenzen struck out 14 batters while walking just two over 9.2 innings of work and did not surrender a single home runs. The 38 batters he faced put up a measly .200 batting average against and Lorenzen’s ERA was 2.79.

Finally, there comes the matter of hitting. Now, I know, Lorenzen is never going to the All-Star Game because of his bat, but a career .235 batting average with seven home runs is enough to make an opposing pitcher think twice before approaching the at-bat as a sure-fire out. Remember, unless it’s negotiated, the DH will not be back in the National League next season.

While Lorenzen’s ability on the mound and at the dish are reason enough for the 28-year-old to snag a starting spot, his expected salary will likely elevate him in the eyes of the front office. There’s also the matter of Lorenzen’s career beyond 2021.

Next. It's a no-brainer for Castellanos to return to the Reds

Michael Lorenzen will be a free agent next winter and the Cincinnati Reds may want to see if they have a starting pitcher or a reliever should the two sides look to negotiate a new deal before the season begins.