Phillies and Eflin agree to contract with interesting wrinkle in it


ATLANTA -- The Phillies and Zach Eflin completed the process of determining the pitcher's salary for 2022 when they agreed on a one-year contract worth $5.7 million on Tuesday.

The agreement prevented the need for a salary arbitration hearing, which would have been held on Wednesday. Ordinarily, arbitration cases are heard and decided in January and February, but the wintertime lockout pushed the schedule back into the season.

Eflin, who made $4.45 million last season, had sought $6.9 million in arbitration and the Phillies countered at $5.15 million. The midpoint between those two figures is $6.025 million. Eflin can end up getting close to that because his new deal contains $300,000 in performance bonus which could take his salary to $6 million.

"I'm happy with what we were able to negotiate," the 28-year-old right-hander said. "The Phillies ramped up conversations over the last week and we took that nicely.

"I'm excited. I'm glad we got it out of the way."

Had his case gone to a hearing, Eflin would have participated remotely. He was curious to experience the process.

"I was looking forward to it, but at the end of the day, I have one job and that's to go out and throw baseballs. That's what I'm here to do. I'm glad to focus my attention on that."

Eflin's new deal contains an interesting wrinkle -- a mutual option worth $15 million for 2023.

Both sides would have to agree to the option in November for it to kick in.

If the option does not kick in, Eflin would become a free agent and be at liberty to sign with any team, including the Phillies.

"From my understanding, it was brought up by the club, which we weren't opposed to because I've made it pretty clear that I want to be here long term," Eflin said. "I think it's a step in the right direction to start these conversations. I love pitching in Philly. I love the fans in Philly. They hold their players accountable, which I'm really big into.

"We'll let the year play out and see what it can bring us. It's on the table for us to both take and we'll re-address that at end of the year.

"Right now, I'm here to throw baseballs so free agency is not even on my mind. I'm focused on pitching and giving the team everything I have. I'm here to be a good person and a good teammate and we'll see where it gets me."

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was happy to get Eflin signed without the help of an arbitration panel.

"Anytime you can avoid a hearing, it's a good thing," Dombrowski said. The 2023 option "is a positive for us but even if we don't (agree to exercise the option) we've expressed all along that we like Zach and would like to keep him in the organization."

Eflin isn't the only Phillies starting pitcher whose contract will need to be addressed in the fall. Aaron Nola has a $16 million option that must be exercised to keep him from becoming a free agent. Kyle Gibson is slated to become a free agent. Ditto for closer Corey Knebel.

Eflin holds the distinction of being the first trade associated with the rebuild that the Phillies embarked on after the 2014 season. He came to the Phillies that December in a deal that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. Former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made the trade.

The rebuild still has not netted the Phillies a berth in the postseason, but Eflin has been a solid rotation piece with much remaining upside if he can stay healthy. He had right knee surgery last September and so far has been healthy in 2022, pitching to a 3.65 ERA in seven starts.

Continued success in 2022 will earn him a nice payday.

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