With the St. Louis Cardinals falling in the playoff race and Jack Flaherty on the IL, they should shut down the right-hander for the season.
With Jack Flaherty’s latest injury, a right shoulder strain that placed him on the 10-day injured list, the St. Louis Cardinals could be without their star right-hander for the remainder of the regular season.
Such a determination hasn’t been made and will be weighed with where the Cardinals are in the playoff standings. They enter Saturday at 65-62 and 12 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central, with their chances of winning the division are all but zero. Their chances of taking the second wild card spot are fading fast, with FanGraphs listing their playoff odds at a mere 3.6 percent.
Indeed, they plan to “heavily weigh” their options with a forward-thinking lens, especially when it comes to the 2022 season, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That could mean Flaherty missing the rest of 2021 and ensuring he returns in ‘22 at 100 percent.
Rushing Flaherty, 25, back from the injured list after he has dealt with numerous injuries this season would make little sense. It would put unnecessary risk on his 2022 outlook and with the Cardinals facing rotation uncertainty with Jon Lester, Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and J.A. Happ all becoming free agents at the end of the season, they can ill afford putting their unquestioned ace at risk of further injuring his shoulder when their playoff odds are so slim.
The argument for playing Flaherty once he returns from the IL is getting him game action so he enters the offseason with peace of mind about the state of his shoulder and other injuries. But both Flaherty and the Cardinals will have to weigh that decision, with the two sides increasingly likely to decide on shutting his season down.
It’s a disappointing outcome for Flaherty after he started the season 9-2 with a 3.08 ERA, looking like the dominant ace that the Cardinals have expected him to be. But shutting him down, and ensuring he is healthy for next season, is the smartest move both sides can do. And it seems like that’s something they are probably going to do, too.