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Three free agent pitchers go off the board

Over the past day, three mid- to low-range pitchers have agreed to free agent deals

World Series - Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Five Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

With the Winter Meetings starting on Sunday, there should be an uptick in both trade and free agent activity over the next week or so. We have seen, over the past twenty four hours or so, three free agent pitchers go off the board, though none of them in the upper echelon of free agents. And while none of them are guys specifically linked to the Rangers, they are guys you would think the Rangers likely had some level of interest in, particularly given how wide a net they are casting.

The most notable deal involves pitcher Zach Eflin, who has reportedly agreed to a three year, $40 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Eflin, 28, is a righthanded pitcher who was originally selected by the San Diego Padres four picks after the Rangers took Lewis Brinson in the 2012 MLB Draft. Eflin went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December, 2014, in a deal involving Yasmani Grandal, Matt Kemp, and former Rangers Joe Wieland and Tim Federowicz before being moved a day later to the Phillies in the Jimmy Rollins trade.

Eflin had a rough first couple of seasons in the big leagues with the Phillies before establishing himself as a decent, if unspectacular, starting pitcher from 2018 to the present. Eflin put up a 4.16 ERA in 531 innings over the past five years, good for a 103 ERA+, and was mostly a starter until moving to the bullpen when he came off the injured list in late 2022, due to there not being time to fully stretch him out. Eflin had a 3.38 ERA in 10 appearances covering 10.2 IP in the postseason, including four appearances in the World Series during which he held the Phillies scoreless.

Eflin is someone the Rangers likely would have had interest in at this price point if they hadn’t brought back Martin Perez, although reports are that the Red Sox offered Eflin the same deal as the Rays did, with Eflin preferring to play close to his home in Florida. This is the largest free agent contract the Rays have ever given out, and exceeds the 1/$9M and 3/$30M projections by Ben Clemens and the Median Crowdsource, respectively, he had at Fangraphs. Kiley McDaniel, though, was almost dead-on, as he projected 3/$39M for Eflin.

It is a little bit more than you’d expect for someone with Eflin’s track record, though McDaniel noted “a surprising enthusiasm for Eflin” among those in the industry, someone seen as having more upside than his 1.5 WAR per season track record would suggest. There’s a lot of pitchers in the same general category as Eflin who will probably get deals in this ballpark, and while the Rangers are aiming higher, if they strike out on the big fish, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give out a similar deal to an Eflin-esque free agent come January.

Lefthander Matt Boyd agreed to a one year, $10 million deal with $1 million in possible incentives with the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers acquired Boyd from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Daniel Norris trade back in 2015, and he had spent almost his entire career with the Tigers before being non-tendered after the 2021 season. Boyd signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants, but didn’t pitch for them due to flexor tendon surgery prior to being traded to the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline. Boyd allowed just two runs in 13.1 IP for the M’s out of the bullpen, though it seems like he’s likely going to be back in the rotation for Detroit.

Finally, reliever Miguel Castro got a one year, $3.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, with reports indicating that there are incentives and an option included. The 27 year old righthander has bounced around, originally coming up with the Toronto Blue Jays, being sent to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki deal, getting shipped to the Orioles at the start of the 2017 season, flipped to the Mets at the 2020 trade deadline, then acquired by the Yankees at the start of 2022 for Joely Rodriguez. Castro is one of those big-armed, more or less serviceable relievers who tend to bounce around from team to team, and who get scooped up on one or two year deals every offseason once they hit free agency.