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Rays Reel In Zach Eflin

Zach Eflin

Zach Eflin

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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Rays Add Eflin To Stacked Rotation

The Rays kicked off their offseason by handing out the largest free agent deal in franchise history on Thursday evening, agreeing to a three-year, $40 million contract with right-hander Zach Eflin. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, it’s the organization’s biggest free agent financial expenditure since giving lefty Wilson Alvarez a five-year, $35 million deal prior to the club’s inaugural 1998 season. The 28-year-old control artist, who grew up in nearby Orlando, joins a stacked Rays’ starting rotation that also includes Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs.

Eflin spent the last seven years with the Phillies and transitioned seamlessly to a relief role late last season, just prior to the team’s improbable playoff run to the World Series, after missing a significant chunk of time due to a right knee injury. He finished his final season in Philadelphia with a solid 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 65/15 K/BB ratio across 75 2/3 innings (20 appearances, 13 starts). He’s consistently limited free passes throughout his career and his 3.56 FIP (Fielding Independent Percentage) represented the 56th-best mark out of 188 pitchers with at least 70 innings last season.

From a fantasy perspective, Eflin should benefit tremendously from a run-prevention standpoint simply by departing Citizens Bank Park’s high-octane offensive environment in favor of Tropicana Field’s cavernous pitcher-friendly dimensions. Swapping out the Phillies’ lackluster defense, which graded out as one of the worst in baseball last year, in favor of the Rays’ superior defensive unit should also have a positive impact on his performance. Given his rather pedestrian strikeout rate, Eflin doesn’t possess stratospheric upside, but it’s difficult to envision a more favorable long-term landing spot than Tampa Bay.

Astros Ink Abreu To Boost Lineup

The defending World Series champion Astros found themselves in desperate need of offensive upgrades at both first base and designated hitter, especially with the trio of Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley and Trey Mancini hitting the open market this offseason, and managed to shore up both weaknesses by signing first baseman José Abreu to a three-year, $58.5 million contract. The 35-year-old veteran slugger remains a certifiable middle-of-the-order force, despite struggling last year in his final season with the White Sox in which he batted .304/.378/.446 with 85 runs scored, a career-low 15 home runs and 75 RBI across 679 plate appearances.

From a fantasy perspective, it’s a phenomenal landing spot as he’ll join Houston’s offensive nucleus in an extremely hitter-friendly home ballpark. Abreu employs a contact-oriented approach, which should fit in perfectly with his new club’s offensive mindset, and he profiles as the ideal replacement for Brantley in Houston’s loaded lineup, which should boost his counting stats moving forward. It’s undeniable that Abreu’s over-the-fence power deteriorated in his final year in Chicago, but a quick peek under the hood reveals that he was still making plenty of hard contact last year, and Minute Maid Park’s hitter-friendly dimensions should buoy his home run totals the next few years. He projects as a borderline top-10 first baseman in fantasy drafts next spring.

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MLB Quick Hits: Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Yankees have offered free agent outfielder Aaron Judge a contract “in the neighborhood of eight years and $300 million.” … According to multiple reports, the Tigers and free agent left-hander Matthew Boyd have agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract … The Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball officially posted right-hander Shintaro Fujinami … Pirates signed 1B Carlos Santana to a one-year, $6.725 million contract ... Nationals signed 3B Jeimer Candelario to a one-year, $5 million contract … Dodgers signed right-hander Shelby Miller to a one-year, $1.5 million contract … Mariners signed RHP Trevor Gott to a one-year, $1.2 million contract ... Reds signed C Luke Maile to a one-year, $1.175 contract ... Nationals signed OF Stone Garrett to a one-year split contract … Guardians re-signed LHP Anthony Gose to a two-year minor league contract … Nationals signed INF Franklin Barreto to a minor league contract … White Sox re-signed OF Mark Payton to a minor league contract ... Angels signed RHP’s Chris Devenski and Jonathan Holder to minor league contracts ... Marlins signed RHP Geoff Hartlieb to a minor league contract ... Rockies signed RHP Matt Koch to a minor league contract ... Athletics signed RHP Jasseel De La Cruz to a minor league contract ... Tigers re-signed SS Jermaine Palacios, INF Brendon Davis, RHP Miguel Diaz and C Michael Papierski to minor league contracts ... Padres re-signed RHP Efrain Contreras to a minor league contract ... Giants re-signed 3B Colton Welker and RHP’s Mauricio Llovera, Sam Delaplane and Drew Strotman to minor league contracts … Pirates designated 1B Lewin Díaz for assignment … Nationals sent OF Josh Palacios outright to Double-A Harrisburg and INF/OF Yasel Antuna outright to Triple-A Rochester … Maikel Franco has signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball … Shaun Anderson has signed with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization ... Robert Gsellman has re-signed with the Yokohama BayStars of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball ... Roberto Osuna has re-signed with the - of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.