Reds: What might a contract extension for Michael Lorenzen look like?

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 26: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 26: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen will be a free agent next winter.

As the Cincinnati Reds enter the offseason following a disappointing 2020 campaign, many eyes have turned to free agency. Cincinnati has seen several players enter the market with only one, Trevor Bauer, likely on the team’s radar. The Reds front office should look to retain the services of one of their own and sign Michael Lorenzen to a contract extension this offseason.

There’s no rush, as Lorenzen is under team control through the remainder of the 2021 season, but next winter Mikey Biceps will enter the free agent market as well if the Reds do not sign the right-hander to an extension. The only other player currently on Cincinnati’s roster who’ll be a free agent following the 2021 season is Archie Bradley. Nick Castellanos could also opt out of his contract.

Lorenzen is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to take home between $3.8M-$4.4M next season after signing for $3.725M last season. Lorenzen’s 2020 campaign did not start well, but the six-year veteran regained his form and finished strong.

Michael Lorenzen went 3-1 in 18 games including two starts. Through his first seven outings, Lorenzen surrendered 10 runs in just 5.1 innings of work. However, over the final month of the season, Lorenzen struck out 20 batters in 16.1 innings bringing his ERA of 16.88 as of August 9th down to 4.28 to close the season.

When looking to work out a longterm extension for Lorenzen, several factors come into play. Will Lorenzen be a starter or reliever in 2021? With the likely exit of Trevor Bauer, Lorenzen could take over as the team’s No. 5 starting pitcher. He’d join Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, and Wade Miley.

However, the Reds could decide to keep Lorenzen in the bullpen where he was the team’s best relief pitcher in 2019. That season, Lorenzen put up a 2.92 ERA in 70 appearances, striking out 85 batters with a career-best 160 ERA+.

Finding a comp for Michael Lorenzen might be a difficult task for the Reds front office, as the versatile 29-year-old can not only pitch, but he can play the outfield, swipe a base, and even settle into the batter’s box with some measure of success. That said, with the universal DH likely to find it’s way back in the next couple years, Lorenzen’s skills at the dish may not bring much value.

Something that could affect Michael Lorenzen’s ability to swing a deal this offseason may be the buyer’s market for relievers. Brad Hand was put on outright waivers and none of the 29 other ball clubs picked up the southpaw for what would have amounted to a $10M contract in 2021. That suggests teams will be looking to save money this offseason, and the bullpen may be of particular focus.

Trevor Rosenthal, who has a few years experience on Lorenzen, is expected by MLB Trade Rumors to land a two-year/$14M contract this offseason. Of course, Rosenthal is a free agent, which makes his negotiations different than a player like Lorenzen. The Reds would be the only team able to negotiate with Lorenzen, whereas all 30 teams have the opportunity to land Rosenthal’s services.

Kirby Yates, who is several years Lorenzen’s senior, is a free agent as well. After a 2019 performance saw Yates garner Cy Young consideration, this past year was one Yates would like to forget.

The left-hander went 0-1 with a 12.46 ERA and is expected to land just a one-year/$5M contract this offseason. Yates was in the final year of his arbitration window last winter and signed for $7M. However, after seeing his market value diminish following his 2020 performance, Yates is probably wishing he’d have negotiated a longterm deal.

So what might a longterm contract for Michael Lorenzen look like? Again, it’s not a black and white situation, as Lorenzen’s versatility as a reliever and starter make it difficult. That said, if the Cincinnati Reds were to offer Lorenzen a deal with an average annual value of $5-$6M, that may be enough to secure the right-handers services for an extended period of time.

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Would you sign Michael Lorenzen to a three-year/$18M contract? Would that be enough to get Lorenzen to sign on the dotted line? There’s a chance, if he performs well, especially as a starting pitcher, that he could fetch more on the open market next winter.