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What does a Jack Flaherty Extension Look Like?

In 2017, I correctly predicted the Cardinals would re-sign Carlos Martinez. I had him getting one of the following deals:

7 years, $110M 8 years, $127M 9 years, $144M or 10 years, $160M

Martinez ended up signing an extension for 5 years, $51M instead - with 6th and 7th year options that would make the entirety of his contract $84.5M over 7 years. That was well below what I had foreseen with him, obviously. I believe I went off of the total $/WAR instead of looking at specifically identifying $/WAR for starting pitching. I won't make that same mistake twice.

To do this, I need to figure out what a pitcher like Jack Flaherty makes on the open market. Then I will use the 25/40/62 rule to project all of his arbitration years. Finally, I will re-look at what Flaherty has been worth per 32 starts in the majors and apply that to any free agent seasons that I would be projecting him to sign for.

Let's begin.

Jack Flaherty currently has one more season (2020) of pre-arbitration remaining in his initial contract with the Cardinals. He will then have three seasons (2021-2023) in which he is arbitration eligible. He can then be a free agent after the 2023 season, prior to the 2024 season. The Cardinals, I'm sure, would like to lock Mr. Flaherty up for more than the next four seasons, in which he is already under contract.

Jack Flaherty, from all accounts, is team "player" in these potential negotiations and will not be taking a "hometown" discount. He seems to be someone who knows what he is worth and will not take a dime less.

This is my attempt to (since I am neither the Cardinals' organization nor am I on Jack Flaherty's financial team's payroll) come to a number representing a potential agreement between the two sides.

Jack Flaherty has thrown 368 2/3 innings in the majors in 67 games (66 of which have been starts). He threw to three batters in one inning in relief in his only relief appearance and retired them all, meaning that he has 367 2/3 innings starting in 66 games. Starters typically throw 32-33 times per season, but I usually go with just the 32 number to project these out. Every 32 starts, Flaherty has thrown 178.3 innings. That is 5.57 per game. Now, that number has gone up as in 2018 Flaherty only had 5.39 innings per game and in 2019 he had 5.95 innings pitched per game. Typically starters (especially in today's day and age) top out around 6 innings pitched per game. If we apply that to his 32 games pitched per season it is reasonable to assume that Flaherty will throw about 192 innings.

In his career, Jack Flaherty has been worth 7.0 fWAR and 8.2 bWAR (Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference's versions of WAR, respectively.) Let's average that out to 7.6 WAR and call it good.

If Jack Flaherty has thrown 368 2/3 innings of 7.6 WAR, that would be equivalent to 3.96 (or 4) WAR per 192 innings pitched. However, Flaherty has gone up from an average of 3.16 WAR/192 in 2018 to 5.18 last year. I'm going to assume about 3/4 of the difference between the two and say he's starting at 4.7 WAR instead of 4 WAR or 5.2 WAR. I feel that seems fair. (Great math, Ben)

Let's also assume a standard aging curve and a starting point of about $4.2M/WAR for starting pitchers, as found here. That can be debated all you want, but that's what I'm going with since it seems to have stalled out there a bit. I'm also going to assume a league inflation of just 2% per season since it seems to have slowed quite a bit as well.

If the Cardinals were to pay the pre-arbitration and arbitration years of Jack Flaherty's contract using the 25/40/62 rule (deduced by a formerly good Pittsburgh Pirates blog that no longer exists) that would mean that Flaherty would, in his first year of arbitration, make approximately 25% of free agent value. In his second year of arbitration, Flaherty would make approximately 40% of free agent value. In his third year of arbitration, Flaherty would make approximately 62% of free agent value.

Let's look at the $/WAR, projected WAR based on the standing aging curve, and then how much he's likely to be worth for the next 10 years (not saying Flaherty will sign for that long, nor if the Cardinals want him to), similar to how a Contract Estimation Tool might do it. Ten years would put Flaherty at his age 33 season, FYI.

Remember, the first year of that is only $600k due to him being pre-arbitration eligible and the 2nd through 4th years of that, in which he's making $6.45M, $10.00M, and $16.54M are his arbitration years. Everything from row 5 down is exploring what he'd be worth after his initial contract with the Cardinals is up. Basically, it says that Flaherty would be worth a 10-year, $180M extension. He'd be worth signing to a $60M extension for 5 years (buying out one year of free agency).

My first offer to him is actually slightly higher than those totals, I believe. I think I go 7 years, $116M somehow, whether that is through options or not.

5 years for $60M, similar to what Carlos got, but with inflation thrown in. The next 2 years are MUTUAL options at $28M apiece. I actually offer him 3 more CLUB option years after that as well. The 8th year of the contract at a 24M club option, the 9th year of the contract at a $20M club option, and the 10th year of the contract at a $18M club option.

5/$60M guaranteed

6/$88M with one mutual option used

7/$116M with two mutual options used

8/$140M with one club option used

9/$160M with two club options used

10/$178M with all three club options used

No matter how you slice it, Jack Flaherty is a guy looking to get paid and he should rightly get paid well. I just want that to be by the St. Louis Cardinals while he is good enough to get it.


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