Braves Rumors: Atlanta keeping close eye on Rays righty for potential rotation help

Atlanta could turn to a familiar right-hander to bolster their rotation.
Tampa Bay Rays v Milwaukee Brewers
Tampa Bay Rays v Milwaukee Brewers / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

A rare rumor both from the Braves' perspective and due to it being only May 19th came out this afternoon. A report from MLB Trade Rumors citing insider Bob Nightengale claims that the Braves are keeping an eye on Rays starter and former Phillie, Zach Eflin.

Now, it is important to note that the trade deadline is at the end of July, meaning we have two months to go before things ramp up. With that much time, many things can change. The Rays are right in the Wild Card race (technically one spot out due to percentage points), so they may not want to give up a rotational piece.

Braves Rumors: Atlanta interested in possible trade for Rays' Zach Efflin

If the Rays fall out of it, then it becomes more of a possibility. The Rays are always willing to make a deal to flip for future pieces. As a smaller market team, they are always working to find multiple players with years of control that can benefit the club. So nobody should be shocked if Eflin was moved at or ahead of the upcoming deadline.

This is further seen by the fact that Eflin's contract bumps up to $18M in 2025. He signed a 3-year $40M contract, but the first two years were paid out at $11M, meaning a team that normally keeps a smaller payroll may look to move on from Eflin if they can get value in return.

Eflin, while solid so far in 2024, has not been the same pitcher as he was in 2023. In 2023, he worked 177.2 innings over 31 starts with a 3.50 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 3.12 xFIP, 3.30 SIERA, 26.5% K rate, and 3.4% walk rate en route to a 4.8 fWAR. This season, he has 59 innings over 10 starts with a 4.12 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 3.71 xFIP, 3.85 SIERA, 17.9% K rate, and 1.6% walk rate. It is a small regression overall outside of the 8.6% drop in strikeouts.

Eflin is a really reliable middle-of-the-rotation arm. Something that would benefit every single major league club vying for a World Series crown. The Braves rotation has been solid even with losing Spencer Strider for the season. The Braves starters rank 11th in ERA (3.44), 10th in FIP (3.73), 5th in xFIP (3.61), & 8th in SIERA (3.72). This means the Braves are not in dire need of starting pitching. However, this depends on how Reynaldo Lopez holds up as a starter down the stretch as well as Chris Sale, who has not thrown more than 150 innings since 2018.

While there may be other more pressing needs as we approach the deadline, adding another established major league arm could make sense for Alex Anthopolous, pending the price. With Eflin, the Braves would also lock in another piece for the 2025 rotation, which could help relieve some of the burden of the cost it would take to acquire him.

With Strider uncertain for the start of the 2025 season, the pending departure of Max Fried if a deal is not worked out, and with a potential Charlie Morton retirement, the Braves 2025 rotation is a question mark.

However, the important thing to go back to here is, it is May 19th. There is a possibility the Rays have no desire to move on from Eflin or that the Braves feel the need to pay the price to acquire him. A fun topic to discuss here but nothing to seriously consider unless more comes out or as we approach the deadline.

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