The Dodgers are in desperate need for another starting pitcher. Sure, Walker Beuhler might return at some point this season, but Clayton Kershaw has a long injury history, Julio Urias has been poor this season when healthy and Tony Gonsolin has taken a considerable step back in 2023.
Due to their need and the proximity to the trade deadline, LA has been linked to a laundry list of starters including Lucas Giolito of the White Sox, Cardinals righty Jack Flaherty and Cubs ace Marcus Stroman amongst others. Of those three names, I do think Flaherty is the most likely acquisition for this team because he would cost less than the other two players named, and it seems as if he has considerably fewer suitors. That alone does raise a few red flags around Flaherty’s game, but he is only a few years removed from a stretch where he had an ERA of 3.34 or lower in three of four seasons, so should the Dodgers acquire the now 27-year old?
What kind of stuff does Flaherty have?
Flaherty has six pitches in his arsenal, but his four-seam fastball/slider combo makes up 66.2 percent of his usage rate. This is surprising as his four seamer is a well below average pitch. The xwOBA against it this year is .334, a marked improvement from last year’s .394 and the average velocity on it of 93 MPH is in the 26th percentile. Additionally, the movement on it is very bad as its horizontal movement of 1.8 inches is 5.9 inches below average. Sure the spin rate on it is in the 59th percentile but that is not nearly high enough to move the needle. Unfortunately, it is a lot of the same on his slider as well with an xwOBA against of .367 with just a 26.3-percent whiff rate. His curveball which he uses just 18.7 percent of the time is a pitch that does offer some promise as highlighted by its 41.4 percent whiff rate. If the Dodgers were to acquire look for his curve to see a steady usage uptick in an attempt to unlock more from him as a starter.
How are his overall metrics?
Short answer: not great. Since his 2018 season, Flaherty has been a pitcher who has consistently outperformed his analytics with it being very apparent in his last three seasons where he has a 4.74 xERA or worse each year. The main reason for those struggles is due to his inconsistencies in the strike zone as his walks per nine since the start of the 2021 season is 4.1 compared to nine strikeouts per nine. If Flaherty is to ever recapture his 2018-19 form where he pitched to an ERA+ of 135 over those two seasons he has to get that walk rate closer to the three per nine he had between his second and third years. It is highly unlikely we see Flaherty return to the strikeout pitcher he was then, but he doesn’t have to be as long as he can limit the walks.
Should the Dodgers acquire him?
No, they should not. Yes, a pitcher like Marcus Stroman would cost considerably more than the Cardinals righty, but he’s worth it. Flaherty carries far far too many question marks with him and frankly I don’t even know if he is a true upgrade over what they have at the back of their rotation. Acquiring him would almost feel like making a trade to make a trade whereas Stroman would be a move to go for it.