Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the New York Mets again on Wednesday night. Yes, I know. We’ve all heard this too many times recently, as the Phillies have been in an awful stretch against their divisional opponents from Queens. It doesn’t help that the Mets have gone from a losing organization to one that is willing to shell out any dollar amount to build a competitive roster, but still, the Phils should be able to compete with these guys. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case right now though, and there are multiple reasons for that. Wednesday, there were various reasons that were evident as to why the Mets have handled the Phillies easily over the past couple seasons, but there was one top issue, and he wears #27.
Aaron Nola is the ultimate Schroedinger’s Pitcher. He is both exceptional and terrible at the same time. Your team’s hopes are both alive and dead when he steps on the mound. It’s mind-numbing, and there’s no science experiment to explain this one. Every time that it seems like the real Aaron Nola has revealed himself, he goes out and has a start like last night where the stat line isn’t awful, but the runs allowed come in huge spots and the shutdown innings are non-existent. Sure, he’ll have one of those starts every once in awhile that make him look like a future hall of famer, but in between those are multiple choke jobs in spots where the Phillies could really use their ace to pitch like one. Last night was the latest in a long line of performances just like that, leading to Phillies fans once again voicing their displeasure with one of the supposed aces of this pitching staff.
Yeah I’ve had enough of Aaron Nola.— Connor Thomas (@ConnorThomas975) June 1, 2023
This year, though, these bad starts come with a lot more personal ramifications for Nola than in previous seasons. Aaron Nola is in a contract year, and this offseason, the Phillies and President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski decided not to ink the 29-year-old to a new deal. So far, that seems prescient considering Nola’s struggles, and also considering how much he can probably still command on the open market. With the deals handed out to the likes of Cole, Verlander, Scherzer, and others over the past couple offseasons, Nola is projected to be looking at a near $200mil contract when he hits free agency at the end of the year. With large money already committed to a super talented core, the Phillies can’t exactly throw out $200mil more to a pitcher who hasn’t proven consistency. Watching Nola this year, it’s hard to think there aren’t better options out there.
And yet, 2022 still lurks in our minds. We watched Aaron Nola help carry this team to the postseason, and then be a part of a roster that brought them within 2 games of winning a World Series. It’s pretty evident from that season that this team can win with Nola as a part of it, but that was on his old contract. And he struggled mightily in the World Series itself; could there have been a different outcome with a more reliable top-level pitcher? We’ll never know, but I don’t think it’s an unfair question. The bottom line of it all is this: Aaron Nola is an extremely talented pitcher who is proving to not be consistent enough to warrant the payday from a contender that he will most likely get from a team looking to build a contender. In lieu of an overpay, the Phillies only have one good option at this point – they can’t pay Nola.