The three curveball-first starters the KC Royals need to target

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Jack Flaherty fits the splashy move moniker.

Jack Flaherty was a phenom on the other side of Missouri not too long ago. The 28-year-old has had a down couple of seasons, but a market may emerge for his services this offseason. A Flaherty deal could range from a one-year, prove-it deal to a multi-year, incentive-laden move. Either way, the Royals moving on Flaherty seems too good to pass up.

It feels so long ago since Flaherty was a dominant pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. His .968 WHIP led all MLB pitchers back in 2019, the same season when he placed third in NL Cy Young voting. At only 23 years old that season, Flaherty seemed like a shoo-in to be one of the NL's next great pitchers. But, much like the Cardinals' outlook in recent seasons, Flaherty quickly and inexplicably fell off.

He finished with a 4.91 ERA in the pandemic-shortened season, then only made 23 starts across the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Issues with his right shoulder made him miss most of the projected starts. landing him on the 60-day IL for the first time in his career in 2022. He was not terrible across those two seasons, with a 3.54 ERA and 1.233 WHIP. Yet availability is the greatest ability for any professional athlete.

This past season was loaded with expectations for the Cardinals team, including Flaherty. They both greatly fell short and St. Louis shipped off the pending free agent to the contender Baltimore Orioles in August. Things went from bad to worse after that trade, where Flaherty made seven starts with a 7.11 ERA. His lone postseason appearance was a dud as well, as he walked three Texas Rangers across two innings in an 11-8 loss.

the previous seasons' injuries are the likely culprit for Flaherty's sudden regression. But it was not long ago that he was one of the league's best pitchers, especially with his four-seam fastball. That was his best pitch for years, but his curveball has been his third offering and is league-average across his career. It may not be to Wright or Anderson's level, but is still more than many other starting pitchers.

Flaherty coming to Kansas City doesn't feel likely, but the fit makes sense. The Royals need to fill multiple rotation spots and Flaherty needs a chance to rehab his MLB outlook. The Royals could do much worse than sign Flaherty to a short-term deal.