On Thursday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays completed a contract with free agent starting pitcher Zach Eflin. The Rays will hope the three-year $40 million deal will improve their starting rotation in a competitive AL East.
Most free agents have yet to sign, and the free agency process across the MLB this offseason has not resulted in many signings in general yet. However, with MLB’s Winter Meetings approaching, Eflin’s signing could be the first of many throughout the next week.
How Zach Eflin Will Impact the Rays
Zach Eflin has been very consistent over the past five seasons. During those years, Eflin finished with an ERA between 4.36 and 3.97. Last season, Eflin was 3-5 with a 4.04 ERA as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
However, Eflin has thrown less than 76 innings in two of his last three seasons. The Rays will hope Eflin throws more innings per season during the course of his contract in Tampa Bay.
Eflin has extensive experience and was part of a Phillies team that reached the World Series last season. He could provide valuable experience for a young Rays team, whose starting rotation will feature several young pitchers next season.
Eflin’s consistency will help stabilize the Rays throughout the next three seasons. Tampa Bay will also likely hope that they can help Eflin continue to develop and maximize his pitches, which could lead to improvement for the 28-year-old over the next few years.
The AL East will once again be one of the best divisions in baseball next season. Eflin’s combination of experience and only 28 years old made this a logical signing for the Rays, and his signing could result in more teams agreeing to contracts with starting pitchers over the next few weeks.
The Affect on Free Agency
Most free agents are still meeting with teams as part of their free agency process, and, likely, several are still not near completing a deal. The start of the MLB offseason has not yet seen many teams make large financial commitments to free agents or make trades.
Each season, the Winter Meetings often result in some of the first major free agency signings and trades of the MLB offseason. Eflin’s signing on Thursday could be a sign that this will be true again this year.
Several excellent pitchers are available in free agency this year, and the depth of players available is among the best of any position in the sport. Despite the amount of starting pitchers available, Eflin’s signing could encourage teams to complete the signings they want to make more quickly.
Starting pitching is always a focus for most teams, no matter how well or badly they played in the prior season, during each offseason. Eflin’s signing means a relatively young, consistent starting pitcher is no longer available in free agency and could lead to other teams that are hoping to improve pursuing other available starting pitchers more quickly.
Pitchers such as Mike Clevinger have already been signed as well, and starting pitching is possibly the area that has seen the most important signings so far this offseason. The Winter Meetings and the conversations and information executives and agents will have and learn this week could continue to result in more players agreeing to contracts over the next few weeks.
Eflin’s signing will improve the Rays next season and could also impact broader free agency. Teams will begin to react to the signings other teams have made over the next few days and weeks, which could lead to several players deciding where they will play next season and in the near future.