By Sam Bush

The Phillies and representatives for ace Aaron Nola have discussed a possible contract extension, and the numbers are unclear.

As things stand, the former seventh overall pick is on track to be one of the top free agents on next winter’s market. Rival clubs would surely love an opportunity to make a run at the All-Star. Nola expressed a desire to work something out with Philadelphia instead, though he noted he’s leaving most of the details to his agents at Paragon Sports International.

My reps are handling it. I don’t really know, honestly,” Nola said. “I love it here. I think everybody loves it here.

Nola suggested his camp would table discussions until season’s end if no deal were in place by Opening Day.

I want to focus on the season, definitely. We’d have to reopen it after the season, for sure. But during the season, I want to stay focused on that: playing good ball, trying to win a championship.

Nola is coming off another excellent year, one that landed him a fourth place finish in NL Cy Young balloting. It was the third top ten placement of his career and a fairly typical showing by his standards. Nola made all 32 starts and threw 205 innings. He posted a 3.25 ERA with an excellent 29.1% strikeout percentage and a 3.6% walk rate that was among the league’s lowest. That marked the third consecutive season in which he fanned upwards of 29% of batters faced while generating swinging strikes on at least 12% of his pitches.

In addition to his excellent rate performance, Nola has arguably been the sport’s predominant workhorse over the past few seasons. He’s respectively made 33, 34, 32 and 32 starts in each of the last four 162-game seasons and took the ball all 12 times during the shortened schedule. Since the start of 2018, Nola leads the majors with both 143 starts and 871 2/3 innings. He’s one of just five hurlers to surpass the 800-inning mark in that time. Aside from a brief stay on the COVID-19 list, he hasn’t missed any time since a 2016 elbow strain.

There’s no question Nola is in line for a much more significant payday this time around — either via another extension or free agent deal. He turns 30 in June, so he’s still in position for a long-term pact despite his first extension pushing back his initial path to free agency by two years. Nola’s combination of performance track record, age and durability could make him one of the top free agent pitchers of the last couple seasons.

Jacob deGrom landed the highest guarantee of any free pitcher the past few years, securing $185 million over five seasons from the Rangers. Strasburg secured his contract — the second-largest pitcher deal in MLB history — on the heels of a stellar playoff run culminating in a championship and World Series MVP award. Nola doesn’t have that kind of momentum leading up to extension discussions, and it’s hard to envision the Phillies matching the Strasburg deal while Nola is a year away from the open market. Still, it serves as an example of the kind of heights a pitcher of his caliber can reach in free agency if he hits the market coming off a peak platform season.

The Phillies haven’t been averse to long-term commitments. Bryce Harper and Trea Turner each reached or topped the $300MM mark. The Phils went into nine figures to land Zack Wheeler and Nick Castellanos and to retain J.T. Realmuto. Wheeler will make $23.5MM in 2024, the final season of his five-year contract. Taijuan Walker is locked into the rotation for the next four years on this winter’s $72MM deal. Ranger Suárez is controllable via arbitration through 2025, while top prospects Andrew Painter and Mick Abel are viewed as long-term rotation building blocks.

There’s a fair bit of talent on the starting staff. That seems unlikely to deter the Phils from making a serious run at retaining Nola, however, considering how impactful he’s been over the past half-decade. Whether they can reach an agreement within the next six weeks is going to be a key storyline in camp.

About admin

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply