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November 20, 2023

Do the Phillies have their high-priced starting rotation set now?

After re-signing Aaron Nola, what could be next for the Phillies this winter?

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Phillies-Aaron-Nola-112023_USAT Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Aaron Nola will be a Phillie for a very long time.

After inking Aaron Nola to a mega seven-year, $172 million deal this weekend, the Phillies now have the highest current estimated 2024 payroll in major league baseball — at over $223 million — and are set to spend (as of right now) the third most money in the league on starting pitchers —just over $66 million (behind the Rangers and Blue Jays).

If they do any more wheeling or dealing in that department, they'll have to get creative, as the expensive rotation now looks pretty well set:

Pitcher2024 salarySigned through
Zack Wheeler$23.5m2024
Aaron Nola$25.6m2030
Taijuan Walker$18m2026
Ranger SuarezEst. $5.8m2025 (arbitration)
Cris SanchezEst. $750,0002028

Though reports did surface that the team isn't done, and is still interested in stud Japanese starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto, The Athletic's Matt Gelb is saying fans might want to temper expectations.

Although the Phillies have increased their presence in Japan over the past two years, they faced significant barriers in convincing Yamamoto to take their money. The interest, in free agency, must be mutual. The club will not be a top bidder on Yamamoto after finalizing the Nola deal, sources said.

The Phillies would have had to spend similar dollars — if not more than what they’ve committed to Nola — to sign Blake Snell, in addition to valuable draft capital because the lefty received the qualifying offer. That factored into the Phillies’ thinking to go to a seventh year, sources said. Snell, the antithesis of Nola in terms of durability, is a strong top-of-the-rotation pitcher who won the National League Cy Young Award in his walk year. Teams are buying high on Snell. The Phillies weren’t certain about that bet. [The Athletic]

The Phillies ultimately played it safe in retaining Nola, who is an innings eater, has postseason experience and allows the Phillies high-powered offense to stay in basically every game he pitches. Though it seems like they paid for the privilege, it's possible his yearly salary will be bumped out of the top 10 among starting pitchers in baseball by the end of the offseason. It actually seems like the Phillies paid a fair price, though they may be stuck with him until he's 37 years old.

Will they be content with Cris Sanchez at the No. 5 spot, or will they look for some kind of depth arm who can compete for the spot in spring training? Matt Strahm and Dylan Covey will be in the mix next season as emergency starters. Some of their top prospects, like Mick Abel and Griff McGarry could have the opportunity to make it to the majors in 2024 as well.

If they do, indeed, run it back with essentially the same starting five, there is reason for contentment. Their rotation was among the best in baseball last season:

CategoryStatMLB Rank
Quality Start %43%5th
IP per start5.53rd
K-BB ratio3.425th
OPS against.7127th

A repeat performance could be enough to get back to the postseason and then as has been seen in back-to-back seasons, anything can happen.

Nola never really wanted to go anywhere else, and the Phillies continue to prove they're a destination for the top players in baseball. Will that lead to an unexpected splash as the offseason continues?

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