After clearing the roster by way of non-tenders and trades, the Tampa Bay Rays began building the 2023 roster on Thursday, as they reportedly inked a three-year deal with right-hander Zach Eflin. They have been linked to Sean Murphy, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, and Jacob deGrom in recent weeks as well.
The deal is supposedly a $40 million deal, and Eflin will make $11 million in each of the next two seasons (making him the highest-paid player on the roster next season), followed by an $18 million salary in 2025. The deal is pending a physical.
The Orlando native was initially drafted by the Padres, although he had spent his entire big-league career with the Phillies. He reached the majors by the middle of the 2016 campaign and bounced on and off the MLB roster for the first couple of seasons. After struggling at first, Eflin has settled in as a capable mid-rotation starter.
In 2018, the right-hander made 24 starts and worked to a 3.80 FIP and a 3.27 xERA across 128 innings. That sparked a consistent stretch of results. Between 2018-22, Eflin posted a FIP between 3.39 and 4.85.
Even though he boasted a 10.68 K/9 during the abbreviated 2020 campaign, he typically misses bats at a slightly below-average level — keeping the ball on the ground at a solid 43.0 GB% overall. That being said, he’s proven to be an excellent strike-thrower.
He started last season by performing to a 4.37 ERA with a 19.6% strikeout percentage and a 5.3% walk rate through his first 13 starts. He, however, landed on the injured list at the end of June with a right knee contusion — costing him over two months. By the time Eflin was reinstated in early September, Philadelphia had very little time to build him back up before the season’s end. Instead, they plugged him into a short relief role where he made seven relief appearances during the regular season. From there, Eflin tossed 10.2 innings over 10 outings as a high-leverage arm during the Phillies’ playoff run.
The right-hander boasts a 93 mph sinker that has slight arm-side run and some natural sinking action and a 78 mph curveball that has slight glove-side movement, while also mixing in a 90 mph cutter, a 93 mph four-seam fastball that has some natural sinking action, and a firm 87 mph changeup. While he typically doesn’t miss many bats, his ability to control his repertoire allowed him to find a fair amount of success in Philadelphia’s hitter-friendly home environment. That should be bolstered in the pitcher-friendly Trop.
He looks to be plugged into the back of the rotation behind Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen, and Jeffrey Spring. It should be noted that Luis Patiño, Yonny Chirinos, and Josh Fleming are on hand as rotation or bulk options for what should again be another strong Tampa Bay pitching staff.
The Rays were willing to look past his concerning injury history to add Eflin — a hurler that’s typically effective when healthy.