The Los Angeles Dodgers have an overworked and under-filled rotation at the moment, topped with young talent but starkly empty at the back end.
Plus, did we mention Walker Buehler and Julio Urías — said “young talent” — both massacred their career-high marks in innings pitched last season? Something’s got to give … if not before 2022, then certainly after the season.
Entering next season, the St. Louis Cardinals have no intention of being part of the Dodgers’ solution to their rotation puzzle. After all, they seem likely to contend, buoyed by their end-of-season 17-game win streak that saw them vault ahead in the Wild Card race, leading to a one-game date at the death trap that is Dodger Stadium.
Jack Flaherty, though, was not really a part of that win streak; he returned from injury on Sept. 24, in Game 15 of that 17-game stretch, to throw 0.2 innings of rust shake-off at the start of Game 2 of a doubleheader.
Though Flaherty’s the theoretical ace of this team, extension talks have become a “riddle,” per STL Today’s Derrick Goold, and have likely been pushed into 2022-23. If they continue to stagnate, could the Dodgers step in and maneuver to bring the Los Angeles native back home before next season begins?
Could the Dodgers swipe Cardinals RHP Jack Flaherty in trade if extension talks go sour?
Flaherty, part of a Harvard-Westlake HS trio including Max Fried and Lucas Giolito — the Cardinals ace used to be a shortstop! — could be an ideal trade target for LA with one year of control left ahead of ’23.
According to reports, Flaherty’s camp and the Cards won’t meet until next offseason, following a contentious arbitration period last cycle:
"Since any Cards extension offer in the near future is likely to be tempered by this recent track record, Flaherty himself would probably prefer to re-establish his value with a healthy and productive 2022 season before committing to a longer-term deal. Flaherty is projected for a $5.1MM salary next year via arbitration, and even those shorter-term talks will be interesting considering Flaherty and the Cardinals went to a hearing (won by Flaherty) last spring."
It wouldn’t be difficult to envision some friction, especially if Flaherty doesn’t reestablish his value after a truly solid (but injury-interrupted) 2021 season (9-2, 3.22 ERA in just 78.1 innings pitched).
Flaherty will want a big year in 2022 — and the Dodgers will want the exact same thing. Anything that vaults him out of the Cards’ range.
For one year of Flaherty, in theory (under the guise of an extension to come), could the Dodgers get away with swapping one of Ryan Pepiot or Bobby Miller, alongside Andy Pages and a back-end, top 30 lottery ticket? Three-for-one, with two top-10 prospects changing hands.
It all depends on which Flaherty we see in 2022 and whether he’s able to maintain his upper-echelon arsenal deep into games (and into the season), but theoretically, the hometown kid could be a great young horse to really fill out a sturdy one-through-four alongside Buehler, Urías, and Dustin May.