St. Louis Cardinals should extend Jack Flaherty

JUPITER, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 19: Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses for a photo on Photo Day at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 19: Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses for a photo on Photo Day at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Jack Flaherty and the St. Louis Cardinals had last Friday their first arbitration hearing after not agreeing to a contract value. The decision of the hearing might not be known for another couple of days, but we know the Cardinals offered $3M, and Flaherty asked for $3.9M. The whole arbitration hearing process is absurd as Flaherty had to sit and hear why his team does not value him enough. With that said, the Cardinals should start showing Flaherty how valuable he is and begin discussing a long-term contract with him.

Flaherty first came up to the majors in 2017 where he threw just 21 innings and struggled giving up 15 earned runs. Nevertheless, the organization liked what they saw and trusted him with a starting role for the next season, and he responded by having a great rookie season.

Jack Flaherty an ace for the St. Louis Cardinals

He threw 151 innings recording an ERA of 3.34 and a FIP of 3.86, with a strikeout rate per 9 innings of 10.8 (top in the league). He finished fifth in the rookie of the year award and established himself as a top starting pitcher.

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His 2019 season was even better. He suffered a bit in the first half, posting an ERA of 3.75 in the first three months and an awful 7.05 ERA in June. Nevertheless, his second half of the season was one of the best in the history of baseball. He had the third-lowest ERA (0.79) after an all-star break ever recorded, struck out 123 batters, and walked just 23. He finished the season with a 0.962 WHIP and a rate of 6.2 hits per 9 innings, leading the league in that category. Flaherty was fourth in the NL CY Young award and almost made the top 10 in the MVP Voting. He became the ace of the rotation and was handed the ball for the big games in the postseason against the Braves and the Nationals.

2020 was a tough year, as he posted an ERA of 4.91 in nine games started; nonetheless, his xERA was just 3.53, and his strikeout and whiff percentage remained in the top percentile of the league according to Baseball Savant. He still is the ace of the Cardinals rotation and is still only 25.

What would Flaherty extension be like?

The Cardinals must take advantage that they can lock up a starting pitcher who is young to a long-term deal. Lots of starters reach free agency or the last years of their contract when they are approaching the 30-year mark and are looking for long term deals, meaning that teams end up offering a high average until their 37- or 38-year-old season. There are few exceptions, but the ability and stamina of starters begin to go down after they are 35 or 36, which is why a long-term deal with Flaherty makes absolute sense for the Cardinals.

He will be in St Louis for his best years and they will not be on the hook for a high average for his veteran years. Start discussing an 8-year deal will also help fix the wounds that the arbitration process surely made. And truth be told, after a tough 2020 season, Flaherty’s value is not as high as before so the Cardinals can try to make a deal that will not go have a crazy average per season and that will keep them under the luxury tax threshold.

Flaherty is a very vocal player and has expressed his disagreement with the salary process for young MLB players, so he might feel happy about an extension with a couple more control years left in his contract. He is also a fan favorite, active in social media, and with the charisma to become a franchise insignia.

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For now, we will have to wait and see the result of his first arbitration process. There are no rumors about a contract extension but St. Louis Cardinals fans should hope that the front office realizes the real value of their young pitching star and seize the opportunity by offering an extension.