The Tigers announced that they have signed right-hander Jack Flaherty to a one-year, $14MM deal. He can also earn an extra $1MM in bonuses based on games started: $250K for 26 and 28 starts, then another $500K for 30. Flaherty is a client of CAA Sports.
Just 28 years old, Flaherty isn’t all that far removed from looking like one of the National League’s budding young aces. The former first-rounder was one of the sport’s top all-around prospects prior to making his big league debut, which came in 2017.
The following year saw the California native pitch to a sharp 3.34 earned run average through 151 big league innings, but Flaherty’s best work came, of all times, during the juiced-ball season in 2019. That year’s 2.75 ERA, 29.9% strikeout rate, 7.1% walk rate and 1.15 HR/9 would be strong marks in any season but were especially impressive during the highest run-scoring environment since the steroid era. Two teams broke MLB’s single-season home run record that year, and yet while many pitchers throughout the league posted career-worst marks, Flaherty shined at his absolute brightest.
Unfortunately for both Flaherty and the Cardinals, that brilliant start to his career didn’t hold up. Injuries, primarily shoulder issues, conspired to limit Flaherty to just 154 1/3 innings over the next three seasons combined. During that time, he worked with slightly lesser velocity (93.9 mph) than his 94.5 mph peak, and his walk and home-run rates trended in the wrong direction. Overall, he posted a 3.90 earned run average but was limited to 32 starts (and another three bullpen outings).
The 2023 season for Flaherty was split between the Cardinals and the Orioles, who acquired him in a trade deadline deal sending lefty Drew Rom and prospects Cesar Prieto and Zack Showalter from Baltimore back to St. Louis. It was a mixed bag of a season for the righty. On the one hand, Flaherty’s 27 starts and 144 1/3 innings clearly made for his healthiest season since that brilliant ’19 effort. On the other, his 4.99 ERA was a career-worst (outside of a 21-inning sample as a rookie in 2017). His 22.8% strikeout rate was about average, but Flaherty’s 10.6% walk rate was elevated and his 93.2 mph average heater was down even further.
Despite the poor 2023 showing, Flaherty drew interest from at least the Pirates, Royals and Tigers — though his market surely included other suitors. There’s good sense in taking a flier on Flaherty, given his age, former prospect…