Analyzing Detroit Tigers signing of Jack Flaherty

Analyzing what Jack Flaherty brings to the Detroit Tigers organization.
Sep 15, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jack Flaherty (15)
Sep 15, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jack Flaherty (15) / Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Analyzing what the Detroit Tigers may get out of Jack Flaherty.

The Detroit Tigers made a splash on the free-agent market on Thursday night. The team went out and agreed to a one-year, $14 million contract with right-handed pitcher Jack Flaherty. The 28-year-old had spent his entire seven-plus year career with the St. Louis Cardinals leading up to last year's trade deadline.

Flaherty was then traded to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for three minor leaguers. He finished out the season there and ended up hitting the open market. The Detroit Tigers swooped in and grabbed him on the one-year deal. The Tigers had been rumored to be in on more pitchers, including Seth Lugo, who signed in-Division recently with the Royals.

Detroit was able to grab Flaherty. He may not be the biggest piece on the market or the biggest prize. However, Flaherty will be someone the Tigers can bank on. It could be a good move in the long run, even if the initial looks at it could be more promising.

The dust settling and sitting with the move for a few hours makes it easier to swallow. $14 million is a lot of money for a starter with less-than-exciting numbers at this point. But, the industry average only goes farther and farther up, and $14 million on a gamble is better than it really sounds.

In 2023, Flaherty pitched in 29 games, making 27 starts between his time with the Cardinals and Orioles. He totaled 144.1 innings pitched with an 8-9 record. Flaherty pitched to a 4.99 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP, walking 66 and striking out 148 opposing hitters. Certainly not the same Flaherty from 2019, where he was a Cy Young Award contender.

However, there are a couple of ways this could play out. Let's talk about the options for what Flaherty could do in 2024.

The upside:

If things go well for Flaherty, he'll fill a spot in the rotation and take some pressure off of Tarik Skubal at the front and Casey Mize as he returns to the mound from Tommy John. He is also on a one-year deal, which means that if things do go well for him, he could be shopped as trade bait once again.

A contending team looking to add a piece for their pitching staff could very well look to add Flaherty. After all, he's on the south side of 30, and when his stuff is on, it can be premium. Even if the Tigers were not to trade Flaherty, if things go well, the depth he would bring to the pitching staff only help them eat up innings and move the needle on trying to stay in ballgames.

The downside:

Things may not go great either. Flaherty has been a different arm than he was with the Cardinals in a few years. The last couple of seasons have seen him undergo some struggles. It's left him working to find a solution, trying to claw back into a spot where his career can get back on track.

However, Flaherty has to come out and prove that he can get the job done, so it's a bit of an uphill battle. The spot in the rotation may be his to lose, but the downside would likely mean a shift to the bullpen, joining the Tigers' long relief group. That is certainly not the way the Tigers want it to play out.

On top of that, Flaherty being in the rotation could be detrimental to elevating any pro prospects. Wilmer Flores or Sawyer Gipson-Long may be ready or close to ready for a promotion to the big leagues. However, with Flaherty being in the rotation, that is unlikely to happen. So it will be interesting to see what happens in that regard after bringing in Flaherty.

Either way things play out, this move will likely be a project for the Tigers' pitching staff. Chris Fetter and Robin Lund will have their work cut out for them as they dive into things with Flaherty. He's trying to get back on track and be the player he used to be.

I like the odds of Fetter and Lund being able to extract value out of Flaherty; to me, the question is how far "back" he will come. Though I like the odds of the Tigers finding ways to get him back on track and potentially turn him into trade bait, but that's the optimistic side of things.

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