8:21pm: Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports the financial breakdown (on Twitter): a $5.5MM base salary with a $150K buyout on next season’s mutual option. Eflin would receive an additional $50K apiece for reaching 100 and 125 innings pitched, $75K for 150 innings, and a final $125K at 175 innings.
4:37pm: The Phillies and starter Zach Eflin have reached agreement on a contract to avoid arbitration, reports Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia (on Twitter). Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (Twitter link) that Eflin will be guaranteed $5.7MM, and the deal contains an additional $300K in possible performance bonuses. The contract also contains a mutual option for 2023 valued at $15MM, per Nightengale. Eflin is a client of O’Connell Sports Management.
Agreeing to terms avoids the necessity of a hearing for Eflin, who was eligible for arbitration for a final time. His camp had filed for a $6.9MM salary, while the team was seeking a $5.15MM figure. Eflin’s guarantee comes in a bit shy of the $6.025MM midpoint, but he could more or less reach that mark were he to trigger all the performance bonuses.
Arbitration salaries are typically determined over the offseason, with whatever hearings prove necessary commonly occurring in February. This past offseason’s lockout froze league business for 99 days, however, pushing some hearings into the regular season. That’s not a desirable setup for anyone, and the Phils and Eflin are both surely happy to avoid that process. Philadelphia’s arbitration class is now wrapped up.
Eflin, 28, is set to hit free agency for the first time next season. The sinkerballer will be one of the younger arms available, and he’s settled in as a reliably effective mid-rotation arm. Eflin posted an ERA between 3.97 and 4.36 each season from 2018-21. He consistently posted walk rates a few points lower than the league average while inducing strikeouts and grounders at slightly above-average marks. On a rate basis, that’s quality annual production.
Coupled with his youth, that kind of steadiness should make Eflin one of the better arms in next winter’s free agent class. The only real concern would seem to be his health history, as he’s dealt with chronic issues in both knees throughout his career. 2016 surgery on both joints alleviated the problems for a while, but Eflin dealt with renewed patellar troubles in his right knee late last season. That culminated in another procedure last September, one that cut his season short.
Eflin has stayed healthy (aside from a brief stay on the COVID-19 injured list) thus far in 2022. He’s off to a typically solid start, posting a 3.65 ERA through 37 innings. The right-hander has a roughly league average 23% strikeout rate and 45.9% ground-ball percentage, while his 4.6% walk rate is among the league’s best. He has joined Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson and Ranger Suarez to comprise one of baseball’s top starting staffs.
The inclusion of the mutual option theoretically raises the possibility of Eflin avoiding the open market altogether, but those are rarely exercised by both parties. Rather, they’re typically an accounting measure designed to push the payment of some salary back a few months — in the form of a postseason buyout on the option, rather than as salary to be dispersed regularly throughout the season. If Eflin stays healthy and productive all season, he’s likely to decline his end of the option in search of a multi-year deal on the open market.