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Hummel: What is the most likely path for Jack Flaherty?

St. Louis Cardinals V Chicago Cubs

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty (22) throws a pitch in the sixth inning of a baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

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Here are the highlights from our weekly chat with Cardinals fans.

Q: What is the most likely path with Jack Flaherty? … After 2022, he likely will value himself at the $30 million annual range, which I question whether the Cardinals should go there, even if they could.

A: I do not see the Cardinals paying Flaherty $30 million a year. First, he has to show he is healthy before there is any talk of a long-term deal. Second, you have to see what the new rules for free agency will be and if he could be a free agent a year or so sooner than he might have been.

Q: Who are some of the funnier Cardinals you have covered?

A: Joaquin Anduar often was funny — and just as often off the rails. Rex Hudler was an amusing fellow, and I have found Adam Wainwright to be a funnyman, on occasion. Whitey Herzog probably provided more humor in his 10 years here than anyone else. And he won some pennants, too.

Q: How do you see the future of the “opening” pitcher playing out? Do you see some of the small-market teams implementing this to keep costs down? (Editor’s note: an opener is a pitcher who starts a game, normally a reliever, with no expectation of lasting five innings or more.)

A: The opener hasn't been limited to the small-market teams. The Dodgers, who had the highest payroll in the land, used a similar philosophy in the postseason. Although I don't like it, the opener can be a strategic tool against a team that likes to platoon quite a bit. When a change after the opener is made, it can force the opposing manager to play his hand sooner than he might want to.

Q: If Jordan Walker is ready in 2023, what position does he play? He is blocked at first and third, and the outfield is set for a while. Would he be a permanent DH?

A: With somebody who can hit like Walker, you find a spot, whether it is backing up at first or third or being a DH. And there’s no guarantee — just hope — that Nolan Arenado will be here after next season.

Q: I like the idea of the Cardinals using the DH to rest some players and give young players at-bats. Is that the trend?

A: It isn't necessarily limited just to young players. But a revolving DH would get Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, etc., off their feet in the field once in a while. You don't want that to happen too often, though, because you don't want to lose the Gold Glove aspect of their games. The days of a player strictly being a DH gradually are coming to an end.

Q: Nolan Arenado has an opt-out opportunity following the 2022 season. … What are circumstances (other than another club offering him stupid money) that would lead him toward opting out?

A: Arenado might be more inclined to leave if he doesn't perceive the Cardinals as a contender. They would be wise to convince him that they are.

Q: Last season's offensive points of weakness came from catcher and shortstop. As of now, there are no changes at either position, and history tells us that Yadier Molina is likely to see further decline. … So, how does this offense improve?

A: Dylan Carlson showed near the end of the season that he is ready for the next level. Paul DeJong should be better. Molina was not that bad, when you look at the numbers. He knocked in 66 runs, nobody steals on the Cardinals, and who else would you want to handle the staff?  They will not use a rookie as the full-time DH, although rookies will get their chances at it. The Cardinals will sign one more hitter who could fill in as the DH besides backing up the corner infield spots.

Q: Do you believe Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame?

A: I would not be upset if Bonds and Clemens get into the Hall of Fame. This is an election, and the results are what they are. But that duo will not get there with any particular help from me.

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