Why Phillies Fans Should Feel Optimistic About the Aaron Nola Contract
Aaron Nola and the Philadelphia Phillies have agreed on a seven-year, $172 million contract. You’ll unquestionably hear mixed reactions to the decision from Dave Dombrowski and the front office to retain the veteran right-hander.
The Phillies chose the known commodity, and they’re now unlikely to pursue another big name starter like Corbin Burnes or Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The decision won’t spark the excitement fans felt 13 years ago after the Roy Halladay trade. It won’t bring the same national attention as the Bryce Harper signing.
However, there is a lot to like about the decision to bring Nola back.
Aaron Nola Contract: Was it worth it?
Phillies fans have justifiably felt frustration with Nola. He was underwhelming down the stretch in 2019, and he pitched well below expectations in 2021 and 2023 with season ERAs well north of 4.00. The former seventh-overall pick allowed 32 home runs last season, which tied him for the seventh most in the majors.
It’s not what you want to see from a player who will now rank 18th among MLB starting pitchers in average annual salary (until other pitchers sign this offseason).
However, a closer look indicates Nola’s strengths. He ranks second among MLB pitchers in innings pitched over the past seven seasons behind only Gerrit Cole, per Jayson Stark. During the same period, only Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, and Justin Verlander accounted for more WAR, considered the most comprehensive advanced statistic in baseball.
Nola’s trend of down seasons in alternating years is concerning and downright bizarre. However, it doesn’t erase the excellent seasons that earned him Cy Young consideration in 2018, 2020, and 2022.
Despite his shortcomings, the former LSU standout is more accomplished than trade candidate Dylan Cease and more durable than free agent Blake Snell. Yamamoto most likely offers a higher upside, but he comes with his fair share of question marks. The organization conversely knows what kind of pitcher Nola is after nine seasons in Philadelphia.
One of the Few Homegrown Phillies
The major market MLB teams spend extravagantly. John Middleton has given Dombrowski the freedom to spend over the luxury tax with big acquisitions like Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, Kyle Schwarber, and Trea Turner.
The city has embraced a group of Phillies who have brought the franchise back into World Series contention. However, the team doesn’t have many homegrown players with the same career track record that Nola has established.
John Kincade spoke about a conversation he had with an MLB executive. He identified Nola’s preference to stay with the organization that drafted and developed him.
“With 100% certainty, Aaron Nola let other teams know, ‘I want to be a Phillie first and foremost, and if they come with a great deal, then I accept, and I’m going back.’ Now, the numbers people projected him to get were totally way off. $30 million wasn’t happening anywhere, but he did supposedly turn down more money to go elsewhere.” -John Kincade
Ricky Bottalico pointed to the timing of the contract as another indicator of the positivity that Nola and the organization share. Most of the best available free agents don’t sign before Thanksgiving. Nola and Dombrowski clearly didn’t want the negotiations to reach a breaking point.
Nola spoke to 97.5 The Fanatic in May 2023 about his long journey with the Phillies.
“I come up in 2015. We’re kind of in a rebuilding phase. We’re stretching our way to that point up until last year (2022) and getting to the playoffs for the first time in my career. I really appreciate it a lot more, and I’m blessed to go through it the way I went through it from a rebuilding point to where we’re at now. I really appreciate it a lot more. I’m glad it happened that way…just the way the organization has gone, the rise that it’s been, the people around, not just the players, but the whole organization from top to bottom, just great people…I definitely wouldn’t change it for anything.” -Aaron Nola
Both sides wanted this, and fans should feel similarly optimistic about one of the most accomplished starting pitchers in franchise history.
Aaron Nola is here to stay.— 97.5 The Fanatic (@975TheFanatic) November 19, 2023
Thoughts on the deal?
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