Zach Eflin is on the shelf again. He is having knee issues for what seems like the tenth year in a row. Eflin has started 115 games in his major league career, all of them with the Phillies. It may be time for him to start thinking about where could call home in 2023 and potentially beyond.

In his walk year, Eflin has posted a 3-5 record with a 4.37 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 68 IP over 13 starts. Eflin, 28, has a career record of 36-45, a 4.53 ERA, and 1.30 WHIP. Not great numbers for a guy looking to cash in on the open market this winter. In all likelihood, Eflin may be able to convince a team to give him a multi-year deal, but that team shouldn’t be the Phillies. If Eflin and the Phillies have mutual interest, it should be a one-year deal for Eflin to prove he can pitch for a full season. Giving Eflin a chance to bet on himself would be a smart move for a guy who hasn’t been able to stay healthy for his whole career but has enough talent to be a very good pitcher in the MLB. 

The last time Eflin pitched an entire season (other than 2020) was back in 2019 when he made 28 starts and appeared in 32 games. In 2018, he made 24 starts. Since 2020, he has made 31 starts. 31 starts is a full season’s worth of starts for a pitcher. Over that time, the Phillies have played 299 games. Essentially, Eflin has only pitched in one of every ten games for the Phillies since 2020. This is an eye-opening stat for teams around the league, not just the Phillies. When a starter averages just over 16 starts per season, red flags go up everywhere. If a team was just shown these numbers, they might think something along the lines of “journeyman veteran, organizational depth, spot starter, opener, or long man that can jump into the rotation when needed.”

If Eflin can come back before the August 2nd trade deadline (likely but not guaranteed), the Phillies could dangle him in trade talks in order to make sure they get something for him if they don’t want to bring him back this winter. A team that wants him could offer the Phillies a bullpen piece or another starter considering the Phillies have no real starting pitching depth after Bailey Falter. 

Based on his track record, Eflin will be lucky to get a multi-year deal from any club. The plain and simple fact is that he cannot stay healthy, and when he is, it’s like night and day. The team never knows which one they will get if they get him at all. 

With all of that being said, there is definitely a case to bring back Eflin. When healthy and on, he can pitch like a solid two or three. The stuff plays well. He gets enough ground balls. He keeps the ball in the yard. Those attributes make him a perfect fit for the bullpen. Moving Eflin to the ‘pen limits his innings, therefore slimming the chances he wears down or gets injured. Moving him to the bullpen will also allow him to use his most effective pitches more: the sinker and the curveball. His sinker has been his bread and butter pitch ever since he arrived in Philadelphia. He throws it almost 40% of the time and it’s very effective in inducing ground balls and the occasional strikeout. He throws his curveball about 20% of the time, which will play well coming off the sinker. Both have hard, biting action which results in batters beating the ball into the ground so much. If he can continue to be effective with those two pitches and mix in a third once in a while just to keep in hitters’ heads, Eflin would be a great addition to a bullpen that needs as many great additions as it can get. 

Overall, Eflin likely will have a solid number of suitors this winter that will want him as a starter. The Phillies will definitely be in the mix to bring him back, but with Zack Wheeler on a $100+M contract and Aaron Nola due to be a free agent in the winter of 2023-24, Eflin’s days in Philly could be numbered unless he agrees to a one-year deal.

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