ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are set to formally announce the signing of free-agent starter Zach Eflin at a news conference Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
Eflin on Dec. 1 agreed to a three-year, $40 million deal pending a physical that was delayed due to the winter meetings and completed Monday.
In finalizing the signing, the Rays have to create a spot on their 40-man roster, a move that apparently was still under discussion Monday night.
Options would appear to include dropping reliever J.P. Feyereisen, who will be out until at least late August after undergoing shoulder surgery last week; or trading reliever Ryan Thompson or catcher Francisco Mejia.
Eflin’s deal is the largest in total value the Rays have given a free agent, and you have to go back to their 1998 inaugural season for the previous high, a $35 million, five-year contract for starter Wilson Alvarez. The next highest was a $34 million, four-year deal for outfielder Greg Vaughn in 2000.
The biggest deal by annual average value is still the $30 million, two-year contract for starter Charlie Morton in 2019.
Eflin is expected to slot into what looks to be a strong rotation with Tyler Glasnow, Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs.
As part of the new labor agreement, owners are funding a $50 million pool to award bonuses for players not yet eligible for arbitration, with money going to the top 100 players by a new WAR metric and top award finishers.
McClanahan benefited most among the Rays, earning a $563,144 bonus to go with his $711,400 salary. By finishing sixth in the American League Cy Young voting, he narrowly missed an additional $1 million, which is given for placing fourth or fifth.
Also getting bonuses, paid by Dec. 23 by the team, which gets reimbursed by Major League Baseball: Rasmussen $415,202 bonus, $711,800 salary; Randy Arozarena $365,073, $716,600; Jason Adam $303,534, $900,000; Wander Franco $292,784, $1 million; Isaac Paredes $287,867, $700,000; Jose Siri $228,027, $704,000.
Adam and Arozarena are eligible for arbitration for the coming season. Franco is due $2 million under his mulityear deal; the others will get just slight raises.
Eflin deal, by comparison
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While a big deal for the Rays, how does Eflin’s contract look in the current free-agent market? Too much based on past performance? Or just the price of starting pitching, and for a guy they have high expectations for? Through Monday, 13 starters had agreed to deals with annual average values (AAV) of at least $10 million (with at least a few more to come). Taking aces Jacob deGrom ($185 million, five years, Rangers) and Justin Verlander ($86.6 million, two years, Mets) off the top, here is how the deal for Eflin, at 28 the youngest available free-agent starter, compares (left-handers noted with asterisk):
Taijuan Walker, 30: $72 million, four years, $18 million AAV, Phillies
In ‘22 with Mets: 12-5, 3.49 ERA, 2.6 WAR. Over 10 seasons: 54-50, 3.89, 10.1.
Jameson Taillon, 31: $68 million, four years, $17 million AAV, Cubs
In ‘22 with Yankees: 14-5, 3.91, 1.3. Over six seasons: 51-35, 3.84, 11.5.
Chris Bassitt, 33: $63 million, three years, $21 million AAV, Blue Jays
In ‘22 with Mets: 15-9. 3.42, 3.2. Over eight seasons: 46-34, 3.45, 13.5
Zach Eflin, 28: $40 million, three years, $13.3 million AAV, Rays
In ‘22 with Phillies: 3-5, 4.04, 0.9. Over seven seasons: 36-45, 4.49, 6.7.
Tyler Anderson*, 32: $39 million, three years, $13 million AAV, Angels
In ‘22 with Dodgers: 15-5, 2.57, 4.3. Over seven seasons: 44-43, 4.16, 11.9.
Jose Quintana*, 33: $26 million, two years, $13 million AAV, Mets
In ‘22 with Pirates/Cardinals: 6-7, 2.93, 3.4. Over 11 seasons: 89-87, 3.75, 26.2
Andrew Heaney*, 31: $25 million, two years, $12.5 million AAV, Rangers
In ‘22 with Dodgers: 4-4, 3.10, 0.7. Over nine seasons: 36-42, 4.56, 6.6.
Sean Manaea*, 30: $25 million, two years, $12.5 million AAV, Giants
In ‘22 with Padres: 8-9, 4.96, -0.9. Over seven seasons: 58-50, 4.06, 11.6.
Also worth noting: Mike Clevinger, 51-30 career record, 3.39 career ERA, $12 million, one-year with White Sox; Kyle Gibson, 89-91, 4.52, $10 million, one year with Orioles; Matthew Boyd*, 39-62, 4.90, $10 million, one year with Tigers.
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