Michael Lorenzen was the Phillies and Dave Dombrowski’s biggest move of the trade deadline. In a trade market where starting pitching was at a premium, Lorenzen was acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers on deadline day for Hao-Yu Lee, the Phillies 5th ranked prospect by MLB pipeline at the time of the trade. Lorenzen was coming off of his first All-Star appearance and was 5-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 18 starts with Detroit.
2023 stats with Philadelphia: 4-2 record, 11 G, 7 GS, 5.51 ERA, 47.1 IP, 5.81 FIP, 1.46 WHIP
2023 postseason stats: 2 G, 2.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 1 K
It’s hard to make a better first impression than Lorenzen did in his first two starts with the Phillies. His first start came in Miami on August 3rd in a series that was critical for Wild Card implications. The Phillies and Marlins, eventual Wild Card round opponents, were jockeying for positioning and Philadelphia had dropped the game before to the Marlins in 12 innings and had burned much of its bullpen. They entered the rubber match of that series with the same number of wins as the Marlins. The Phillies desperately needed a good start from their newly acquired right hander.
And all Lorenzen did was go out and have one of the best starts of his career, throwing eight innings and allowing two runs in a 4-2 win. Lorenzen then followed that start up with the one everyone will remember.
On August 9th, Lorenzen threw the 14th no hitter in Phillies franchise history in his home debut at Citizens Bank Park. He stepped out of the dugout in the ninth inning to go to the mound despite having 111 pitches, and the home crowd reacted with a standing ovation. Thirteen pitches later, Dominic Smith flew out to Johan Rojas in center field, and history was complete.
Welcome to Citizens Bank Park, Michael Lorenzen pic.twitter.com/4PpNBAiXky— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 10, 2023
Unfortunately, that was destined to be the peak of Lorenzen’s short time with the Phillies. He appeared in 9 more regular season games after the no-hitter and posted an 8.01 ERA with a 1.91 WHIP. After going at least 8 innings in both of his first two starts, he would not pitch further than the sixth inning in any of his remaining starts, and only finished six twice.
Lorenzen lost his spot in the rotation on September 19th and was effectively relegated to low leverage mop-up duty in the bullpen. He appeared in only two postseason games; one was a 10-2 Phillies win in Game 3 of the NLDS and the other was a 5-1 loss in Game 6 of the NLCS.
Lorenzen was acquired as a pure rental, as he will be a free agent this offseason after the Phillies declined to give him a qualifying offer. It is an almost certainty that he will be pitching elsewhere in 2024 after his dreadful end to the season.
In a vacuum, it's easy to argue that the Phillies lost this trade. They surrendered a top prospect in their system for 11 games of a starting pitcher with an ERA over 5. However, it's important to remember the context of the time the trade was made. Aaron Nola was struggling, Taijuan Walker was beginning to show signs of falling apart, Cristopher Sánchez was new to the rotation, and Ranger Suárez would head to the injured list on August 19th and miss a total of about three weeks with a hamstring strain.
Lorenzen was brought in to be an insurance policy at a time the Phillies rotation looked perilous late in the season. In the end, the most value the Phillies got out of the trade was that they were able to survive missing Suárez for those three weeks. Lorenzen made two starts in the time Suárez was on the IL, The Phillies were 1-1 in those games and Lorenzen allowed a total of 7 runs across 11.2 IP. Long term, that probably wasn't worth the price they paid. At the time it was happening, it’s hard to imagine the Phillies wouldn’t take that outcome.