With the AL Central looking more and more wide open by the day, the Detroit Tigers have added another piece to the back end of what’s shaping up to be a sneaky solid starting rotation. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Detroit and righty Jack Flaherty have agreed to a one-year, $14 million deal.
Admittedly, Flaherty is a long way away from the star trajectory he appeared to be on when he nearly won the NL Cy Young Award back in 2019. Injuries have taken their toll since then, diminishing both his strikeout rate and fastball velocity. The 28-year-old was decent enough with the St. Louis Cardinals at the start of 2023, pitching to a 4.43 ERA (98 ERA+) across 20 starts. But he was dreadful after a deadline deal to the Baltimore Orioles, posting a 6.75 ERA and falling out of the team’s rotation entirely. For the year, he accumulated a 4.99 ERA (86 ERA+) with 148 strikeouts in 144.1 innings.
But Detroit isn’t paying Flaherty like the ace he used to be. They’re paying him like a fourth or fifth starter — and, disastrous Baltimore stint notwithstanding, there’s reason to believe they can coax that sort of production out of the righty. He was roughly a league-average pitcher in St. Louis, and he has the stuff to do so again in a very friendly pitcher’s park and an offensively challenged division. Flaherty will slot into a Tigers rotation that might be deeper than you realize, with intriguing young talents like Tarik Skubal, Reese Olson, Matt Manning, Sawyer Gipson-Long and former No. 1 pick Casey Mize joining fellow free-agent signing Kenta Maeda. Detroit was 16th in baseball in starter’s ERA last year, and between all of those names it seems pretty likely that they’ll at least match that in 2024.
For Flaherty, this is a pretty ideal spot in which to try and rebuild some value and hit the market again in a year’s time. Facing the White Sox, Royals and Guardians is pretty good living for a pitcher, and Comerica Park is one of the most spacious stadiums in the entire league. If the righty can get his command under control a bit more, he could produce 150-180 league-average innings, production that would make this deal a pretty solid value — and likely earn Flaherty a multi-year contract next time around.
The Tigers have also acquired outfielder Matt Canha in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers and signed lefty reliever Andrew Chafin, as they continue to look more and more like a functional big-league roster. With Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter driving the offense, don’t be surprised if Detroit flirts with playoff contention in 2024 — they finished last season second in the Central at 78-84, and the Twins and Guardians have done nothing but take steps backward so far this winter.