Braves Reportedly Interested in AL East Starting Pitcher

The Atlanta Braves have been reported to be watching one of last season's best pitchers for a potential trade
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Zach Eflin is rumored to be available via trade, and the Atlanta Braves have been reported to be interested in the veteran's services
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Zach Eflin is rumored to be available via trade, and the Atlanta Braves have been reported to be interested in the veteran's services / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Braves reportedly want to reinforce their rotation. 

When you think about the season-ending injury to ace Spencer Strider and the workload concerns of starters Chris Sale (injury), Reynaldo López (converting from relief), and Charlie Morton (age), it makes sense. 

Per MLB Insider Bob Nightengale, the Braves are “keeping a close eye on” Tampa Bay Rays veteran Zach Eflin.  

Eflin, 30, hasn’t gotten off to the same caliber of start to fit what he did last season, when he went 16-8 with a 3.50 ERA in his 31 starts for Tampa Bay, striking out 186 in his 177.2 innings. In 2024, Eflin’s just 3-4 with a 4.12 ERA, although the worse win-loss record can be tracked back to the slow start that Tampa Bay’s made this season. 

Finishing in 6th place in the AL Cy Young race last season, Eflin is currently underperforming some of his peripherals, putting up a 3.67 Fielding Independent Pitching and the best strikeouts per walk rate in baseball at 11.0. 

Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, is considered a more accurate measure of a pitcher’s true skill as it isolates just the things that the pitcher can control - homers, walks, strikeouts, and HBP - which eliminates the positive or negative contributions of the defense from the pitcher’s stats.

Eflin’s in the second season of a three-year deal signed prior to the 2023 season, making $11M this season and $18M in 2025 with a $1M trade assignment bonus. That additional year of control would seemingly be attractive to a Braves team that currently projects to be without both Max Fried and Charlie Morton next season, as both pitchers will reach free agency after 2024. 

Tampa Bay is another organization, similar to Atlanta, that is considered to be good at developing pitching and it’s logical that a deal could be made between the two teams despite Atlanta’s deficiency in high-end position player prospects. Tampa Bay’s historic depth with hitters is another factor that would point towards a pitching-heavy return, although the Rays system isn’t as deep in hitters as in previous seasons. 

Eflin’s contract for the remainder of this season could potentially be a sticking point absent some financial wrangling; the Braves are projected to be less than $5M below the third Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $277M, a figure that comes with additional financial and draft penalties. If Eflin is traded before the final month of the season, a possibility depending on how aggressive Atlanta wants to be about upgrading the rotation before they enter the heart (and heat) of the Georgia summer, Tampa Bay may be asked to pay a portion of Eflin’s contract, receiving a higher caliber prospect return to do so. 


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Lindsay Crosby

LINDSAY CROSBY

Managing Editor for Braves Today and the 2023 IBWAA Prospects/Minors Writer of the Year. You can reach him at contact@bravestoday.com