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November 06, 2023

Phillies rumor roundup: What's the latest on Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, and Bryce Harper?

Checking in on where the Phillies are at with Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins, the idea of a Bryce Harper contract extension, and a long-shot look at a free-agent ace coming over from Japan.

MLB Free Agency begins today and the Phillies face a couple of key decisions as they try to keep their World Series contention window open, while a couple of longtime names themselves face the decision of whether to stay or go. 

It's going to be a pivotal winter.

Here's what we know so far...

Aaron Nola

After the Phillies' season ended, club president Dave Dombrowski said securing a high-end starter would be at the top of their to-do list this winter – be it Nola or someone else

And according to Bob Nightengale over at USA Today, per what he's hearing from execs around baseball, the Phillies might be bracing for it to be someone else, more specifically, NL Cy Young candidate Blake Snell, under a scenario you can read more about HERE.

As for potential suitors for Nola who aren't the Phillies, Nightengale also noted that the Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers, and Rangers might be in the running, writing the following about the newly-crowned World Champions in particular:

Hey, free agency treated [Texas] very, very, very good in their World Series run. 

So why not hit the market again? 

They will make a run at Ohtani, who was on his original list of teams he was interested in signing with when he left Japan, and will be on the lookout for starting pitching. 

Bringing Jordan Montgomery back makes the most sense, but certainly Nola and his durability is quite attractive to the Rangers’ rotation, with several GMs predicting Nola will end up in Texas. [USA Today]

Maybe that opens up Montgomery as another option for the Phillies to consider alongside Snell in the event that Nola walks. 

Either way, the Phillies are going to have to open up the checkbook for someone if they want their best possible shot at another World Series run in 2024. 

Nola represents the most comfortable and reliable option for the Phillies while being likely the biggest-name pitcher in this winter's free-agent field, but he's looking at significant term and a total salary upward of $100 million because of it, which might be difficult for the Phils to match now because they couldn't when they tried to last spring. 

But for what it's worth – and accounting for the possibility that things might've changed in the few weeks since – Dombrowski said in his exit interview after the NLCS that keeping Nola around would be a priority.

"He's our, I'd say, our priority to try to sign," Dombrowski said. "We didn't sign him in spring training. We would've liked to have done that and we didn't get it done, so I can't tell you that I feel 100 percent confident we're gonna get it done, but we would like to sign him and be aggressive in trying to make that happen."

Rhys Hoskins

Hoskins – along with pitchers Craig Kimbrel and Michael Lorenzen – wasn't expected to receive a qualifying offer, per's Todd Zolecki, but even so, he would've been stuck in an uncertain roster limbo that depended heavily on Bryce Harper's future playing first base. 

Hoskins' run as a Phillie isn't over just yet, but with no qualifying offer, a now unclear fit in the lineup, and continued rehab back from an ACL tear, it isn't exactly looking great that he'll return. 

Bryce Harper

Speaking of Harper, Tim Kelly over at Phillies Nation reviewed the not-so-subtle paper trail being left by Harper and his agent Scott Boras on the idea of a contract extension that goes beyond the initial 13-year, $330 million agreement made back in 2019. 

Sounds absurd at face value, right?

But let's think about this for a second: In the time since signing that mega-deal, Harper has actually proven it a massive bargain with MVP-level play that has helped catapult the Phillies from middling at .500 into expected postseason and World Series contention. 

It's a massive leap when you step back and take in the full scope of it, and all while the player market value around him and the Phillies has only rapidly increased. 

Harper has no opt-out. He committed to Philadelphia and has continually reinforced it. And there's no contract restructuring like there is in the NFL, so an extension to inflate the total value of his deal might be the closest thing to such an adjustment. 

I encourage you to read Kelly's full article HERE, but I would also like to add this thought that may end up important: Shohei Ohtani is about to absolutely break the market with the next record-setting contract that will more than likely be worth over half a billion dollars. 

Harper may not be worth all of that, but he's much closer to it than not, so my gut says the thought of an extension might really start to pick up steam once we know exactly what Ohtani's number is. 

And hey, if it ends up in a World Series title or two in the end, you're going to be hard-pressed to find anyone that'll say it wasn't all worth it.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto

We're going to file this one as a long shot for now, but if the Phillies are in need of another ace, one is expected to be on his way over from Japan.

Right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto had his transfer to jump to Major League Baseball approved after his Orix Buffaloes club was eliminated in Japanese baseball's postseason.

Western fans got a glimpse of him during the World Baseball Classic back in the spring, as he and Japan went on to win the whole tournament, but back East, he was outright dominant with a 1.21 ERA and 169 strikeouts for a 16-6 record. 

The 25-year old also threw a no-hitter in September with MLB execs in the crowd scouting. 

He's definitely going to have a ton of interest this winter, but again, the Phillies are likely long shots to make a convincing offer. International signings of this magnitude typically haven't been the club's style and Yamamoto is going to be a tough one to start with now with all the expected competition. 

Still, you never know. 

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