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#pounditThursday, February 9, 2023

Rays give out biggest free agent contract in team history to surprising player

Oct 7, 2019; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) talks with media after game three of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series at Tropicana Field. The Tampa Bay Rays won 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are breaking the bank (at least relatively speaking) for an unexpected player.

The Rays agreed to a three-year, $40 million contract with free agent right-hander Zach Eflin on Thursday, per multiple reports. Jeff Passan of ESPN notes that the contract is the largest for a free agent in Rays club history.

The 28-year-old Eflin, a native of Orlando, Fla., is a fairly obscure name. He has never made an All-Star team, is not a very dynamic swing-and-miss pitcher, and has a pedestrian 36-45 record with a 4.49 ERA over his MLB career. While Eflin has versatility as either a starter or a reliever and posted a solid 3.56 FIP last season, he also carries with him a history of knee issues.

Tampa Bay has handed out much larger extensions before (the 11-year, $182 million deal they gave shortstop Wander Franco last year is one that comes to mind). But Eflin is now the owner of the biggest true free agent contract in the Rays’ quarter-century history. Giving that kind of distinction to a mid-rotation pitcher is pretty surprising, especially since it effectively takes Tampa Bay out of the running for this other rumored target of theirs.

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