Thursday evening, MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi revealed that the Baltimore Orioles have expressed “interest” in Tigers starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen. Public-facing analysts consider Detroit all but certain to deal Lorenzen to a contender before the MLB trade deadline, but this is the first time it’s grown from mere speculation into a sourced rumor about specific teams.
Lorenzen was Detroit’s All-Star representative in this year’s game, and he’s carried that momentum into a very strong start to the second half. In 23.2 innings, he’s allowed 3 earned runs and whiffed 21 batters — a stretch that included a scoreless streak across three starts. Even when he’s not on a hot streak, he has top-shelf spin on his fastball and limits walks and home runs pretty well, making him a capable third starter.
The Orioles make sense as a partner in a potential deal for Lorenzen. They’re emerging as a fun team on the upswing in the AL East, but they could use some rotation help. Their pitching room is led by Kyle Gibson and Kyle Bradish, who are both on pace to total over 3 fWAR apiece. Backing them up, Tyler Wells and Dean Kremer don’t exactly strike fear in the heart and top prospect Grayson Rodriguez hasn’t been as impactful as they may have hoped.
That’s not a bad group of guys, but Baltimore can be forgiven for seeing a pitcher rental as a good investment while Rodriguez adjusts to the bigs.
On the other hand, the Orioles make for an appealing dance partner for Detroit as well. The Tigers organization has clearly defined pitching development as its string suit, but aside from Colt Keith, there aren’t any impactful bats ready to reinforce the anemic major league lineup anytime soon. Maybe a midseason callup of Justyn-Henry Malloy or Parker Meadows could help as well, but they’re prospects on a lower tier than Keith. Baltimore has a wealth of good position players nearing the majors to choose from, any of whom could include some life into the MLB lineup next season.
It’s expected to be a seller’s market for starting pitchers at this year’s deadline, and Detroit is in a good position to leverage a quality return for Lorenzen. The Angels swiftly strengthened the Tigers hand by taking two of the best pitchers off the market earlier this week, first by opting against trading Ohtani, then by paying a steep price to acquire Lucas Giolito.
Orioles remain focused on pitching upgrades ahead of the deadline, sources say.
Tigers All-Star Michael Lorenzen is one starter in whom they have interest. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 28, 2023
FanGraphs and MLB Pipleline have a wildly disparate reckoning of the Orioles prospects, and as an outsider to the team, that makes it very hard to figure out who the Tigers could realistically try to include in a deal. For instance, Pipeline’s rankings would make Coby Mayo seem like a reasonable ask, but Colton Cowser completely untouchable. FanGraphs has those players swapped, with Mayo ranked as one of the best in the game and Cowser more on the expendable side. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the Orioles parting with either for Lorenzen unless it was in a package deal.
Instead of proposing a trade, which is generally a useless exercise anyway, here’s some quick hits on a handful of Baltimore’s prospects who could attract Harris’ attention.
Outfielder Dylan Beavers is tooled up with power and speed and is considered a smart hitter, but he has bat-to-ball issues. Infielder Jordan Westburg has defensive versatility, the potential to hit 25 homers annually, and has acquitted himself nicely in three weeks of MLB action. Shortstop Joey Ortiz has boosted his stock immensely in the past year. He’s a defensive wizard with polished feel to hit, and may require a package of pitchers to be had in return, though he’s not quite widely considered to be on the same tier as Mayo or Cowser just yet. Shortstop Frederick Bencosme is young and lacks power, but his excellent bat control is enough to make him intriguing. Outfielder Hudson Haskin is quick and well rounded, and could debut in the majors this year.
Position players will occupy the majority of Tigers’ fans minds while perusing the farm systems of potential buyers, but my interest is also piqued by pitching prospect Juan Nuñez. He’s been a slow bloomer who just reached High-A, but he has near elite spin characteristics on both his fastball and breaking ball.
Speculatively, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Tigers tie a reliever to Lorenzen in an effort to get a better prospect than Lorenzen alone could fetch. Detroit will be able to furnish its roster with replacement level hitters going forward, what they need is impact players. The Orioles also have the ammunition to get freaky and make an offer for Tarik Skubal, who hasn’t been rumored to be available but could make sense for the Tigers to move on from if there’s a major prospect package to be had in return.