Let me preface this by saying that the headline isn’t to be misleading or suggesting Jack Flaherty will be leaving the Cardinals for a team in California. It’s merely an opinion piece and a hypothetical question.
With that being said, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty is scheduled for free agency after the 2023 season, and many are curious what the future holds for him in a Cardinals uniform.
Flaherty is projected for a $5.1M salary next year via arbitration, and last off-season earned $3.9M after rejecting the Cardinals offer of $3M in the arbitration process hearing.
It is doubtful that the organization entertains any type of extension in the near future, and Jack seems to be a player that knows his worth which may paint himself or the club into a corner in the next couple seasons.
The 26 year old righty is coming off a 2021 season that started hot and then saw him injured for a good chunk of the remainder of it. He appeared in 17 games (15 starts), going 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA, 85 K and 26 BB in 78 1/3 innings.
Prior to that, during the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Flaherty started 9 games going 4-3 with a 4.91 ERA and striking out 49 in just over 40 innings.
Despite being under club control one more year after this season, one would think even with the potential that Jack has, that this season will be one which he looks to remain healthy and put up numbers that ups his value even more, to where either the Cardinals or another team see him as a target for a high dollar contract.
But will the St. Louis front office prioritize locking up Flaherty when the time comes?
It’s a given that Mozeliak and company value starting pitching. They seem to draft well in that department and already have a plethora of young arms that have either seen major league action or are on the cusp. Pitchers like Alex Reyes, Jordan Hicks, Genesis Cabrera, Jake Woodford, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Kodi Whitley could be slotted in starting roles in the future, while Dakota Hudson seems to have a spot locked and there’s the recent free agent signing Steven Matz that (while 30 years old) inked a 4-year deal that has him in the mix as well.
There’s also top pitching prospects like Matthew Liberatore and Zach Thompson that could be brought up this season and could have a path to a starting role.
Does all of this mean Flaherty isn’t needed or wanted by the Cardinals? Of course not. Jack has all of the makings of an ace pitcher, and pitches with maturity, a great repertoire and overall baseball smarts. There’s no question that the Cardinals value that. But at what cost?
Obviously when Adam Wainwright retires and Miles Mikolas’ contract comes off the books, that will free up some payroll to make Flaherty a really nice offer to stay a Cardinal long term. However, there will be some big spending suitors that I think will press St. Louis possibly past what they’d feel comfortable offering.
Obviously, Flaherty is a California kid. Born in Burbank, CA and attending Harvard-Westlake HS in Los Angeles where he played with fellow major league pitchers Lucas Giolito and Max Fried. Not that I think the old saying “Home is where the heart is” is the end all/be all for players, but the fact that the MLB teams located in California are noted for being big spenders, I could see the Dodgers, Angels, Padres and Giants all willing to throw a ton of cash Flaherty’s way. Oakland being the lone Cali-team that likely wouldn’t.
That’s also not to say that a team like the New York Yankees or other big-market clubs wouldn’t be in the mix, but my gut feeling is the biggest competition for Flaherty’s services would come from the west coast.
Flaherty was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round (34th pick) of the 2014 MLB draft and quickly climbed the minor league ranks thereafter.
Since making his MLB debut for St. Louis in 2017, Flaherty’s career numbers are 32-24, a 3.34 ERA, 567 SO, 487 IP, 1.071 WHIP and a 10.5 K/9.
If he comes out this season as hot as he did in 2021, or puts up numbers like he did in 2019 where he finished 4th in Cy Young voting with an 11-8 record and a 2.75 ERA, then he will position himself as either the ace of this St. Louis Cardinals team for years to come, or one of the most highly sought after free agent pitchers to hit the market at the end of the 2023 season.
I for one, hope that he has a lights out season that we know he is capable of and at some point does get a deal done that keeps him wearing the Birds on the Bat for his entire career. Flaherty had such a bond with Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson and has been under Adam Wainwright’s tutelage as well. It would be nice if Jack took that torch and continued embodying the “Cardinal way” as he’s both a fan favorite and still has a ton of potential to be one of the game’s elite pitchers.
Those that follow Jack Flaherty on social media, know that he’s always quoted with the “Don’t Think” moniker and hashtag, but I hope as far as his future and playing days, that he isn’t “California Dreamin’ “ down the road.
What say you, Cardinals Nation? Let us know what you think the future holds for Jack Flaherty and if you’d like to see him finish his career a St. Louis Cardinal.
As always thanks for reading and Go Cards!