3 players the Blue Jays should keep a close eye on and 2 to avoid as the deadline nears

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates, Marcus Stroman
Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates, Marcus Stroman / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals

People may find it surprising to see Jack Flaherty on this list as a potential trade target to avoid, especially when teams appear to be actively pursuing him in trade talks in recent weeks. After all, Flaherty has shown in the past to be a strong, front-end of the rotation arm and is still at a very young age of 27. With the St. Louis Cardinals pretty much out of the playoff race already halfway through the season, they will definitely be looking to retool their roster and net some assets that can help them for future success in the years to come, while shortening the time of their potential rebuild at the same time, since they have been pretty much perennial contenders like the New York Yankees.

Everybody seems to want Flaherty, but the Jays should try their best to avoid him at all costs. In recent years, he has become quite injury-prone, with repeated shoulder injuries that put him out of commission for long stretches in both 2021 and 2022. The most worrisome part was the fact that the three shoulder injuries all happen to be recurring on his same right pitching shoulder, which could potentially have long-term repercussions in terms of his future effective and performance for his career.

Now back in action for 2023, with a clean bill of health, Flaherty has not regained his dominant form prior to 2021. Through 15 starts, he has accumulated a 4.95 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, giving up 44 earned runs, six home runs, an uncharacteristic high number of walks with 44, to go along with 80 strikeouts over 80 innings pitched, easily his worst numbers in his career ever since his debut season back in 2017. Going more in depth with advanced metrics with Statcast, his xERA/xwOBA ranks in the 27th percentile, his K% in the 43rd percentile, his BB% in the 10th percentile, his chase rate in the super low 8th percentile, and fastball velocity down in the 24th percentile (as on average, his fastball has decreased almost two mph overall since 2019), with much of the metrics trending in the wrong direction for the past couple of years.

To make matters worse, his injury troubles appeared to have flared up again recently as he missed his recent start due to hip tightness. He appears to be headed towards the same trajectory as the once-promising Matt Harvey, who was never able to regain his dominance and effectiveness after enduring multiple injuries that ultimately derailed his career. More importantly, because the Cardinals will probably be asking for a premium for the services of Flaherty, this is a “sure loss” gamble the Jays simply cannot take.