How Jack Flaherty Fits with the Detroit Tigers and What to Expect

The Detroit Tigers bolstered their rotation with another veteran arm, signing Jack Flaherty to a one-year, $14 million deal in free agency.

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 3: Jack Flaherty #15 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on August 3, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

A second place finish in a miserable AL Central meant two things for the Tigers heading into 2023. First, the Division is there for the taking. Two, you will need to add in order to leapfrog the Twins.

Detroit needed help in the rotation after injuries and poor performance left them in a pickle to fill innings in 2023. Signing Kenta Maeda was step one, signing Jack Flaherty to a one-year, $15 million deal was step two.

You likely know the name. Remember, the stud in the Cardinals rotation who finished four in Cy Young voting at 23 years old? Well, injuries have derailed his path to being an Ace and now he’s looking for a rebound, and Detroit could be the perfect spot for it.

Why Flaherty Fits

The Tigers have a number of young arms on the horizon. Locking up Maeda for a multi-year deal allowed the front office to pivot and bring in more of a project. The Tigers do not have enough proven starters to role into the season without an addition like this. Yes, you could name more than five names who deserve to be in the rotation, but rarely will they all be healthy at once.

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As I wrote in my offseason preview, Detroit is in a perfect position to sign a one-year rebound deal. Now there’s less reason to rush prospects or players back from injury while also evaluating a still young, talented arm in Flaherty. Although this team has talent, they also have plenty of questions – especially in the rotation. Worst case scenario he pitches so poorly you move on after one year. No big deal. Best case? Pitching into an extension or pretty return at the trade deadline.

For Flaherty, Detroit seems like the perfect fit. You get $14 million (incentives up to $15) to work with a well-respected pitching coach in Chris Fetter, a pitcher friendly ballpark, and can hit free agency again at 29 years old. Flaherty can’t complain much about that.

What to Expect

2023 Stats: 144.1 IP, 4.99 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 9.23 K/9, 4.12 BB/9

Last season was the first mostly healthy year for Flaherty since 2020. His 2023 season started with five innings of no-hit, seven walk ball which showed his biggest issue; walks. Flaherty slightly improved on his command but ultimately pitched himself into a bullpen role in Baltimore.

Everyone knows the bullpen move was not a permanent, career changing move. Baltimore was in a playoff race and frankly, Flaherty was not good enough to earn starts. Wait, if he struggled for three years to stay healthy, hasn’t pitched well in his limited innings, and walks too many batters than why should you, a Tigers fan, be excited?

You’ll have to put faith in the coaching staff, specifically Chris Fetter and Robin Lund, to tap into the talent that once made Flaherty a highly regarded arm. At least they have given you reason to trust them with the number of turnaround they have successfully had.

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No doubt Flaherty has the talent to be a successful Major League pitcher. He’s lost a touch of velocity over the past few years but has maintained similar spin rates. Aside from walking too many batters, he’s struggled to produce swing and misses. What the baseline numbers do not tell us is what the Tigers see and think they can change. Is it an arm slot? A pitch shape? Pitch usage?

We did see a bump in his cutter usage last year, throwing is nine percent of the time. The pitch only produced a 26% whiff rate but gave him another option to use against lefties. He has a changeup he mixes in but it is not very effect because he cannot throw it for a strike. The majority of the time you will see fastball, slider, (knuckle) curveball.

Flaherty finding his fastball again would really change how good he can become. Last season batters hit .290 0ff the pitch with a .357 WOBA. He struggled to locate it, throwing it for a strike only around 64% of the time. A look at his fastball locations which is more for your viewing pleasure than anything:

Via Baseball Savant

If the staff can find a tweak to help Flaherty with his fastball command, than this signing will look much different. Another pitch I’m personally curious about is his curveball, which is a knuckle curve. This pitch produced a 33.6% strikeout rate and 40.2% whiff rate. Batters his .204 off the pitch and I would like to see him use it as his “put away” or strike three pitch. Breaking off a 76 mph curve with good movement after an effective fastball will be tough to hit. Now, get that effective fastball back.

I understand you are not rushing out to buy a Flaherty jersey, but I think there’s enough here to be excited about. Again, trust the staff on this one. They have been great at identifying Major League talent that they think they can improve, so I say give them the benefit of the doubt. Flaherty is more than just some waiver claim flyer.

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Does This Mean an Arm Will be Traded?

Signing a veteran to pair with Skubal, Manning, and the rest of the younger arms and Mize was always an obvious move. Adding two arms might lead you to wonder if someone is going to get traded. I don’t see it as a must happen, but this signing makes it easier to stomach if they do. Here’s a list of the potential starters on the 40-man with the number of minor league options they have:

Tarik Skubal (2), Kenta Maeda (0), Jack Flaherty(0), Matt Manning (2), Reese Olson (2), Sawyer Gipson-Long (3), Alex Faedo (1), Casey Mize (3), Keider Montero (3), Wilmer Flores (3)

Skubal, Maeda, and Flaherty are locks to not be moved. In fact, the only one from this list who I think has a chance to be moved right now is Matt Manning. A young, controllable starter who could be a little bit of a project. However, I’d keep Manning unless the return was going o help you this season (likely in a package).

Trading Manning would immediately put a strain on your depth while putting pressure on your rookies. I know he has not yet lived up to his draft status, but Manning is good enough to be a back of the rotation arm and if you plan on competing this year, you need that.


The Tigers are showing they are cautiously going to contend and I think that read is right. Although I like the talent on this team and prospects coming up, I still think they are a year away. Maybe they can be what the Reds were last year.

An underrated part of this signing is ownership throwing a little money out there. Spending $14 million on a starter who is a bit of a project is a good sign. They could have easily settled for a $7-10 million option. Now, go get a bat or two.

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