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Free agent pitcher Zach Eflin chooses Rays over Red Sox

Because of injuries, Zach Eflin was limited to 20 games for the Phillies last season, including 13 starts.Elsa/Getty

The Red Sox believed they were about to add a starting pitcher to their rotation Thursday. They had negotiated a three-year, $40 million deal with righthander Zach Eflin, a 28-year-old righthander with a career 36-45 record and 4.49 ERA (and slightly below-average 95 ERA+) over parts of seven years with the Phillies.

But according to a major league source, Eflin, who lives in Orlando, Fla., reached out to the Rays to see if they would match the offer. They did, so Eflin reached an agreement with Tampa Bay for the same three years and $40 million to head home. The Sox were not given a further opportunity to negotiate.


The source suggested that such matching opportunities based on geography are not uncommon. Even so, Eflin’s decision leaves the Sox still in need of rotation help, in a market where the initial moves have all suggested a high cost of doing business.

When healthy, the 6-foot-6-inch Eflin has profiled as a solid back-of-the-rotation starter whose stuff — low-90s sinker, curveball, four-seamer, cutter, and changeup — is good enough to suggest additional potential if he can remain on the mound.

Though limited to 75⅔ innings last season by knee issues, Eflin went 3-5 with a 4.04 ERA in 20 games (13 starts), posting a 20.8 percent strikeout rate and minuscule 4.8 percent walk rate while generally limiting opponents to poor contact with his sinker (85.3 m.p.h. average exit velocity). He emerged as an important bullpen contributor in the Phillies’ run to the World Series.

It remains to be seen where the Sox will turn next to add to their rotation. According to major league sources, they engaged with Nate Eovaldi last month in conversations about returning on a multiyear deal (after he turned down a one-year, $19.65 million qualifying offer).


Lefthander Rich Hill also has discussed a potential return to Boston with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. The team also has been in touch with lefthander Andrew Heaney for the second straight offseason.

Eflin marks the second Sox target in as many years to pass on their offer in favor of the Rays. After the 2021 season, the Sox saw lefthander Brooks Raley as a top bullpen target. According to major league sources, they made a two-year offer in the neighborhood of $8 million to Raley, who ended up signing with the Rays on a two-year, $10 million deal with a 2024 team option.

Alex Speier can be reached at Follow him @alexspeier.