Jack Flaherty is The Cardinal Nation’s Projected Arbitration Winner

photo: Jack Flaherty via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

February 13 update

With the news that Flaherty won his hearing against the Cardinals, this story, originally published on January 23, has been updated for reference.

If you arrived here hoping to read an article unrealistically imploring the St. Louis Cardinals to lock up ace starting pitcher Jack Flaherty with a long-term contract, you are going to be disappointed. I don’t see that even being put on the table until after the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is fully negotiated and ratified.

Even then, there is no guarantee Flaherty would bite. It might take a record-setting kind of contract, and let’s be honest, making such a lucrative offer would not be typical behavior of the Cardinals, even in the best of financial times.

Jack Flaherty

Instead, today’s focus is very much short-term. The 25-year old and his employer are heading toward a hearing in the next few weeks. At that time, Flaherty’s salary for his first year of arbitration eligibility will be set.

There are only two possible outcomes – either the pitcher’s request of $3.9 million or the team’s submission of $3 million will be chosen. (Note that because the Cardinals are a “File and Trial” team, negotiations with Flaherty have ended, making a hearing almost certain.)

Both sides are surely busy preparing their cases to present. We have done the same here at The Cardinal Nation. Specifically, one of the leaders of our message board community, jj-cf-stl, prepared a competitive analysis of Flaherty versus several of his pitching peers considering experience, service time, results and recognition.

Based on the following, Flaherty is our projected winner of his hearing – admittedly with zero percent of the vote having been counted.

The detail follows.

The three peers selected for our analysis are Brad Keller of the Kansas City Royals, Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox and Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds. Of them, Keller may be least advantaged in certain areas due to his playing for a consistently losing team.

Our three comps are all starting pitchers in their first year of arbitration eligibility, and were chosen because they have all settled on their 2021 contracts, and as such appear to be strong comps for Flaherty.

Service time: best match Keller
3.000 Keller
3.006 Flaherty
3.080 Giolito
3.101 Castillo

Career IP: best match Keller
360 Keller
409 Flaherty
489 Giolito
519 Castillo

Career ERA: best match Keller
3.37 Flaherty
3.50 Keller
3.62 Castillo
4.44 Giolito

Note: Here is where the American League designated hitter difference comes into play for Keller and Giolito. If the arbitrator is presented with ERA+, and is willing to acknowledge it….

Career ERA+: best match Castillo
131 Keller
124 Castillo
122 Flaherty
099 Giolito

Win/Loss %: best match Giolito (I know, but arbitrators likely understand wins and losses more than saber stats)
.517 Giolito
.511 Flaherty
.492 Castillo
.477 Keller

Career WHIP: best match Castillo (DH influence again)
1.073 Flaherty
1.168 Castillo
1.227 Giolito
1.285 Keller

2021 salary:
$3.00 MM Flaherty (if team wins)
$3.35 MM Keller (avoided hearing)
$3.90 MM Flaherty (if player wins)
$4.15 MM Giolito (avoided hearing)
$4.20 MM Castillo (avoided hearing)

Flaherty’s service time, innings pitched and ERA all best match Keller. Giolito and Castillo have more service time and substantially more IP, leading to higher salaries than Keller.

Flaherty has the lowest ERA and WHIP, but the deciding factor in his favor is his strong placement in prior league award votes, where the numbers below indicate the player’s place in the various results.

Career awards:
Keller – none
Castillo – ROY-8, AS
Giolito – AS, CYA-6, CYA-7
Flaherty – ROY-5, CYA-4, MVP-13

ROY = Rookie of the Year
AS = League All-Star
CYA = Cy Young Award
MVP = Most Valuable Player

Flaherty had the best Rookie of the Year showing, top Cy Young Award result and is the only one of the four to have received MVP votes. The only area of the four in which he is lacking is NL All-Star selections.

Brian Walton’s conclusions

With a decision in his favor, Flaherty’s $3.9 million salary would still be $300,000 less than Castillo and $250,000 below that of his friend Giolito. It would be second-lowest in the group, $550,000 more than Keller.

On the other hand, the Cardinals’ submission would make him the lowest-paid of the four by at least $350,000, and a whopping $1.2 million below Castillo. This simply does not pass the sunshine test. In this market-based comparison, the Cardinals’ offer appears to be too low.

The Cardinal Nation’s decision: Flaherty’s submission of $3.9 million is accepted.

February 13 update

… and it occurred as predicted…

Also, like I said, don’t be holding your breath waiting for that contract extension to be signed…

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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