Cardinals: One writer believes St. Louis should extend Jack Flaherty

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Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 15, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 15, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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One major outlet believes Jack Flaherty is a prime extension candidate for the Cardinals. While it makes sense, the timing just may not be right.

Everything written about the St. Louis Cardinals has centered around three topics. How they intend to cut payroll. How their offseason revolves around potentially re-signing Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. How the team could look to trade Carlos Martinez.

But what about securing their internal options? Jim Bowden of The Athletic explored extension candidates for all 30 teams and listed Jack Flaherty as a player the Cardinals “must extend.”

The idea of extending Flaherty is something that we have broached before. He is only 25 years old. He is entering his first year of arbitration and as our Matt Graves wrote, Flaherty has not minced words on what he thinks of the arbitration process. And for a team that has extended Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong, Miles Mikolas, Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong in recent seasons, it makes sense that they would explore potentially extending Flaherty.

But extending Flaherty is, at best, unlikely. He is projected to make roughly $3 million in 2020 and with the Cardinals looking to decrease payroll next season, reworking that contract makes little sense unless they intend to heavily backload it. Though team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the team will not hesitate to add payroll if the right opportunity presents itself.

"“We’ve always made every attempt to be competitive, year after year,” DeWitt Jr. told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re not going to change that approach because our fans expect, and that’s what our fans deserve. … (Declining Kolten Wong’s option) enables us to have flexibility for sure.”"

It is likely that flexibility will be used to address other parts of the roster. But Flaherty is the type of player the team will look to eventually extend. While he struggled this year with a 4.91 ERA and saw his walk rate increase (3.6 BB9 in 2020; 2.5 BB9 in 2019), he has shown long stretches that inspire confidence he has the potential to be a future Cy Young Award winner.

Flaherty’s 2019 season – 196.1 innings, 2.75 ERA, 231/55 strikeout-to-walk ratio – is the perfect example. He finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting and took 13th in the MVP race. The year before, he finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. He is someone that the Cardinals should – and will – build their rotation around long-term.

It is why an extension eventually makes sense for the Cardinals and Flaherty to explore. But with Flaherty signed cheaply in 2021 and St. Louis having so many other glaring holes on the roster, the timing just isn’t right.

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