More Sports:

October 30, 2023

Phillies stay or go: Should they re-sign Aaron Nola?

Aaron Nola has been a Phillie his entire career. Will be be back in 2023?

The Aaron Nola question is probably the biggest personnel decision facing the Phillies this offseason — right ahead of whether the team will move Bryce Harper back to right field or keep him at first base.

It was made pretty clear from both sides that both Nola and Philadelphia would like to remain in one another's lives, but the dollars and the years would need to be correct for the homegrown hurler to remain in red pinstripes.

The sticking point is probably going to be years on a deal — of which the Phillies probably want fewer. According to Spotrac, Nola should command somewhere in the $24 million per season range, which is more than double his 2023 salary. He is probably worth that on the open market. 

But beyond the parties involved and their desire to work together, is Nola a good fit in Philadelphia going forward?

His numbers

Nola was a first round pick by the Phillies organization back in 2014, and somewhat quietly he's become one of the best Phillies starting pitchers of all time. His franchise numbers:

CategoryStatPHL Rank
Games started2357th 
Games won9013th


Nola has finished in the top seven in Cy Young voting three times, peaking at third in 2018. Last season he led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio and was fourth in NL Cy Young voting.

No Phillies pitcher in history has struck out more batters per nine innings than Nola, who routinely wrings up more than 10 of them. He is also seventh in franchise history in win probability added. 

Nola is in his prime at age 30, and clearly there is more consistency to his game than the eye test may attest to. He struggled more in 2023 than in previous years, posting a 4.46 ERA and allowing a career high 32 homers. But Nola has never been a shutdown pitcher. He's a pitcher who eats innings, keeps hitters on their toes and keeps his teams in games.

With Nola, you're getting a starter who can go deep into games and a player who stays healthy. He has not missed a single scheduled start over the last six seasons and that's really saying something.

His postseason numbers

Nola also has emerged as a reliable No. 2 to Zack Wheeler in the postseason. Over the past two Octobers, Nola has gotten nine starts and has a 3.70 ERA in them. The problem is he is worse as the playoffs progress. 

Wild Card2-0, 0.00 ERA, 13.2 IP
Divisional2-0, 1.54 ERA, 11.2 IP
Championship1-2, 6.00 ERA, 15.0 IP
World Series0-1, 8.64 ER, 8.1 IP

Is he a big game pitcher? Or does he falter in pressure spots? Or, does he just get too bogged down from so much pitching that he is out of gas late in the postseason? Nola pitched more than 205 innings before the Phillies' World Series run in 2022 and 193 innings this past season. Those totals were the second and fifth most innings in the entire NL respectively. 

The idea here is to have the best possible pitching staff for the Phillies to find a way to get over the hill and win a title over the next few seasons while their championship window is open. Is Nola that guy? Or is it someone else?

The alternatives

During his season-ending press conference, Phillies president Dave Dombrowski made it clear that the team is either brining back Nola, or replacing him.

"We need to be in a position where we have somebody else who would be a starting pitcher of quality in the rotation," Dombrowski said. "So yes, it's either Aaron or somebody else."

So just who else could the team bring in to replace Nola behind Wheeler atop the rotation? We dove into five guys we like as a fit for this last week, but here's a brief overview of the available starting arms who are in the same wheelhouse as Nola talent and experience-wise:

PlayerAgeWARLikely salary
Aaron Nola3031.7$24.5m
Clayton Kershaw3779.9$37m
Blake Snell3021.1$23m
Eduardo Rodriguez3017.6$20m
Sonny Gray3430.0$20m
Jordan Montgomery3012.5$18m
Michael Wacha3213.0$18m
Marcus Stroman3221.7$15m
Mike Clevenger3217.5$14m
Luis Severino2911.8$12m

As you can see it's a long list — and that's just the top 10 available starters. We limited it to players we think could pass as a No. 2 starter behind Wheeler next season. The Phillies have options, and that might actually play into their hands in their negations with Nola. With so many available guys, teams may not be as willing to break the bank for him.

But his pedigree is the second best, at least by WAR, of any pitcher that can be had this fall behind Kershaw who is 37 and probably not coming to Philadelphia. 

It's going to be interesting to see how aggressive the Phillies are with Nola, or if they follow a recent trend of sitting on their hands and letting the market play out first. 

So what do you think — should the Phillies bring back Aaron Nola?

Vote here:

Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports