Over the next several weeks, members of the Camden Chat staff will be reviewing one 2023 Orioles player each day to see how the season went for each of them.
The idea of adding Jack Flaherty to the 2023 Orioles was a flawed but pragmatic one from the front office’s perspective. They wanted to provide a relatively inexperienced rotation with an additional safety net, a veteran arm that could absorb innings down the stretch and maybe even share some wisdom. In many ways, Flaherty fit that brief. Unfortunately, his on-field performance was nowhere near the level this team needed.
It should be said that while the front office may have thought that adding Flaherty to their roster was helpful, the Orioles fan base felt differently from the jump. That point is well illustrated by the comments section of Paul’s article on the trade back in August.
You can’t blame them. After all, Flaherty was a below-average starter for the Cardinals in the season’s first four months. Over 109.2 innings he had a 98 ERA+, 4.43 ERA, 1.550 WHIP, 106 strikeouts, and 54 walks. And it’s not as if that was some grand departure from the rest of his career. Flaherty did garner some Cy Young buzz back in 2019, but ever since he had been an inconsistent starter that dealt with injuries and often sub-par performance.
For an Orioles team that was vying for the AL East crown and perhaps a World Series run, it was a move that felt like more of the same, rather than an upgrade. It was a reinforcement of the team’s floor when most were hoping to see them raise the ceiling.
The height of Flaherty’s time with the Orioles came in his very first start, on the road against the Blue Jays on August 3. The righty twirled a gem, allowing just one run on four hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts over six innings. His fastball had more juice than it was showing in St. Louis, the Orioles won the game 6-1, and it seemed like this move might work out OK for the O’s.
That would end up being the only win that Flaherty earned as an Oriole. His next six starts were a mix of competitive yet underwhelming outings and outright disasters. For example, he followed up his start in Toronto with a five-inning, three-run start against the Astros. Not bad. But then he imploded in San Diego, serving up seven runs in just three innings of work. Altogether, Flaherty posted a 7.11 ERA/5.06 FIP in seven total starts for the Orioles from the start of August through mid-September.
Flaherty had to miss a start in late August due to what was called “general soreness.” The pitcher himself said that he just didn’t “quite feel right,” so it was decided to give him extra rest. There was never any indication of additional injury. According to Baseball Savant, Flaherty had his lowest average fastball velocity (92.9 mph) as an Oriole in his first start (August 27) after that extended layoff and then saw it increase every start after. But the results got no better.
The return of John Means in the season’s final two weeks resulted in a role change for Flaherty. O’s manager Brandon Hyde intended to shift from the six-man rotation the team had been using for several weeks back to a traditional five-man set up. That wouldn’t include Flaherty.
The righty moved to the bullpen, where he essentially became a non-factor. Flaherty made two relief appearances in late September. In three total innings he allowed one run on five hits and four strikeouts. He still made the ALDS roster, but appeared just one, a two-inning outing in the Orioles’ 11-8 Game 2 loss.
Flaherty will become a free agent after the World Series, and it would be a shock to see the Orioles in the mix for his services this offseason. Given his recent performances, Flaherty seems like a prime candidate to receive a one-year “prove it” type of deal from a team that desperately needs starting pitching. The Kansas City Royals come to mind as a possible fit.
Not so long ago, the Orioles would have made a lot of sense for someone like Flaherty. The team tended to be short on big league quality arms, often scrambling to compile enough innings to simply survive a season. But that shouldn’t be the case in 2024.
The next five years (at least) of Orioles baseball should include more division titles and deep postseason runs. That will require the addition of high caliber arms rather than depth pieces that they hope will outperform their peripherals. Flaherty, at this time, represents the latter.
Monday: Shintaro Fujinami