st. PETERSBURG — Improving their lineup is the top priority this offseason, but the Rays’ first significant addition was a move to upgrade their already impressive starting rotation.
Rays agree to 3-year, $40 million contract with right-hander Zac Eflin — the first notable strike in the free-agent pitching market this offseason — sources told MLB.com Thursday night. The club has not confirmed the contract and a physical examination is pending.
If confirmed, it would surpass the five-year, $35 million contract signed by Wilson Alvarez in 1997, making it the largest free agency deal in franchise history. The largest average annual value the Rays have given free agency remains his $15 million earned by Charlie Morton on his two-year deal in 2019-20.
Ephrin, who turns 29 in April, spent seven seasons with the Phillies, going 36-45 with a 4.49 ERA in 127 games, including 115 starts. Last year, the Orlando native posted a 4.04 ERA in 75 2/3 innings of 20 outs (13 starts) in Philadelphia where he struck out 65 and walked just 15.
Ephrin, who has been dealing with chronic knee problems since starting the season in the Phillies’ rotation, missed nearly three months last season with a right knee injury. He returned as a weapon from the bullpen in his September as he did not have enough time to reclaim his starter position. A right-hander, including the postseason, he had 21 strikeouts and two walks in 18 1/3 innings in which he recorded a 2.45 ERA.
Ephrin hasn’t lost many at-bats before, but the heavy-thinking starter has posted some interesting numbers this year. His career-high 85.3 mph average escape velocity ranked in his 96th percentile in the majors, and his career-low his 31.1% hard hit percentage was within the top 10 percentile. He also did not give up his passes in frees, averaging less than his two walks per nine innings over the past three years.
Eflin also made an interesting change to his pitch mix this year. After years of using sliders as the best side offering, he largely shelved that pitch in favor of curveballs. 241 slugging percentage with a .155 slugging percentage against his Eflin curve who threw 20.1% of the time (up from his 10.8% in 2021) while generating a 43.5% miss rate. achieved a batting average.
The Padres selected Ephrin in the first round (33rd overall) of the 2012 Draft out of Paul J. Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida. Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Barring a trade, the signing would solidify a strong starting five of Glasno, McLanahan, Rasmussen, Springs and Ephrin. Rays: Luis Patiño, Yonny Chirinos, Josh Fleming top prospect Taj Bradley.