Zach Eflin started the 2018 season playing at Triple-A Lehigh Valley with more people likely to confuse him for the former High School Musical star than a top prospect. But with two healthy knees and a velocity increase, the Philadelphia Phillies front-office apparently values Eflin significantly more than they did at the beginning of this season.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, in trade talks for Baltimore Orioles shortstop (not third baseman) Manny Machado, the Phillies would be more likely to part with top prospect Adonis Medina than Eflin:
In Manny Machado trade talks with #Phillies, #Orioles have a better chance to acquire minor league RHP Adonis Medina (No. 2 Philadelphia prospect) than Zach Eflin, who has a 2.97 ERA in 11 @MLB starts this year. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 5, 2018
Medina, per MLB Pipeline, is the No. 2 overall prospect in the Phillies system. The Dominican-born righty is currently 8-2 at Single-A Clearwater with a 4.19 ERA. He’s not as coveted as the organization’s No. 1 overall prospect – Sixto Sanchez – but the 21-year-old would be a valuable commodity if the Phillies were willing to part with him in a trade.
Meanwhile, Eflin, who was acquired in the December 2014 trade of Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers, is in the midst of a breakout 2018 campaign. Still just 24, Eflin turned in one of the better months in Phillies history in June, going 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in 30.2 innings. He picked up right where he left off in his first start in July, allowing just two runs over seven innings in Tuesday’s win over Machado and the Orioles. In total, Eflin is 7-2 in 11 starts at the major league level this season. In those 11 starts, he has a 2.97 ERA, a 2.90 FIP and has accumulated a 1.8 fWAR, which is third on the Phillies, behind just Aaron Nola and Cesar Hernandez.
In some senses, Eflin’s breakout is surprising. He made 11 starts at the major league level for the Phillies in 2016, where he posted a 5.54 ERA, 5.48 FIP and 0.1 fWAR. He, again, made 11 starts for the Phillies in 2017, turning in a disastrous 6.16 ERA, 6.10 FIP and -0.2 fWAR. Then again, he’s finally healthy in 2018.
Eflin had arthroscopic knee surgery on both of his knees in the waning weeks of the 2016 season. Even though he was medically cleared to pitch in 2017, it’s now evident that he wasn’t at full strength last season. In 2018, with a firm base underneath him, Eflin has seen his average fastball velocity increase from 93.7 to 95.1. His sinker, slider and curve have all seen varying velocity upticks in 2018 as well.
Make no mistake, if the Phillies could trade for Machado knowing that he would agree to a long-term extension, Eflin and Medina would both be on the table. Probably anyone in the organization save for Nola, Sanchez and Rhys Hoskins probably would. But Machado is months away from free-agency, with no guarantee that he won’t sign elsewhere this offseason. For as nice as it would be for the Phillies to have Machado the next few months, from here it appears like a lot to give up Eflin or Medina for a rental. Sure, Machado could enjoy his few months in Philadelphia so much that it gives the Phillies an advantage when he does test the free-agent market. Then again, the deep-pocketed Los Angeles Angels traded for Mark Teixeira and Zack Greinke as rentals four years apart, only to see both of them part to sign with other big-market teams in free-agency.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic noted earlier this week that the Orioles also have interest in injured third baseman/shortstop J.P. Crawford. Again, for the chance to have Machado for the next decade, the Phillies would probably part with close to anything. But with only the next few months assured, it will be interesting to see where general manager Matt Klentak ultimately draws the line.