May 06, 2023
It seems like ages from now, but at the end of the 2023 season Phillies homegrown ace Aaron Nola will hit free agency.
It didn't have to be this way. The Phillies and Nola reportedly engaged in talks this spring, with the Phils offering "north of $100 million," according to a report from the New York Post's Jon Heyman.
Nola wanted more, understandably, after several other pitchers set the market — like Carlos Rondon and his $162 million deal with the Yankees. He's also been an innings eater and on the cusp of Cy Young consideration nearly every year.
Philadelphia should be eager to retain Nola, as they don't have much to rely on right now in their starting rotation beyond him, Wheeler and an injured Ranger Suarez.
So why didn't the Phils make more of an effort to keep Nola in South Philly? Perhaps their optimism in the emergence of their top pitching prospects Mick Abel and Andrew Painter factor in. Having starting pitchers on their rookie contracts is almost like an NFL team having a quarterback on a rookie deal.
The team also might be leaning on some recent history. If you recall, a similar scenario was handled by the Phillies with catcher J.T. Realmuto, who famously didn't ink an extension with the club until he reached free agency a few years ago. There may not be reason to worry based on that precedent.
There will also be an extremely talented and expensive class of starting pitchers next fall. From Heyman:
The free-agent pitching market should be a doozy — with the amazing Shohei Ohtani plus Julio Urias, Nola, Sonny Gray, Jack Flaherty, Marcus Stroman (if he opts out), Lucas Giolito, Martin Perez, Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell and the great Clayton Kershaw (of course he’s unlikely to pitch for anyone but the Dodgers). [NY Post]
The Phillies may wind up with more flexibility than expected when the season ends, as their other high priced free agent to be — first baseman Rhys Hoskins — tore his ACL and may wind up being cheaper to retain than the team may have expected back in March.
Nola is 2-2 with a 4.64 ERA so far through seven starts, but he's gotten better as the season has gone on. According to Spotrac.com, Nola is worth $23.3 million per season. We'll see if he makes that — or more — when the season ends in October (or November).
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