After locking up their two most important relievers this week, the Phillies are focused on working out an extension for starting pitcher Aaron Nola.
Nola, Rhys Hoskins, Craig Kimbrel and Josh Harrison are the only Phils scheduled to reach free agency after the 2023 season. Nola, whose deal will certainly be the largest of the group, is the top priority.
The Phils have already started contract negotiations with Nola's representatives, NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark confirmed.
Nola is coming off of a strong bounce-back year. It was the fourth full season in a row that he made at least 32 starts. He's been among baseball's foremost workhorses the last five seasons, leading all of MLB with 871⅔ innings.
After posting a 4.63 ERA in 2021, Nola responded with a 3.25 ERA last season. He struck out 235 and walked just 29, the lowest walk total in 137 years for a pitcher with that many strikeouts. As good as he was, it wasn't even the best season of his career. Back in 2018, Nola went 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA that was lower than Roy Halladay's the year he won the Cy Young award as a Phillie.
The Phillies drafted Nola seventh overall out of LSU in 2014. He turns 30 on June 4. He's made 203 starts with the Phils, and like most of his teammates, got his first taste of the postseason in 2022. He won his starts in the wild-card round against the Cardinals and NLDS against the Braves, allowing no earned runs in 12⅔ innings. He struggled in his final three playoff starts as fatigue set in throughout the Phillies’ pitching staff.
The price tag for Nola's next contract should be very high. He has more of a track record than Carlos Rodon, who is six months older and signed a six-year, $162 million contract with the Yankees over the offseason. The internal debate front offices always have when a pitcher like Nola hits the market is whether his history of durability is cause for optimism or concern. Does it make him more or less likely to miss significant time during the next contract? It's an unanswerable question.
The deal that expires for Nola after the season has been quite team-friendly for the Phillies, paying him $56.75 million over the five years from 2019-23.
The pitchers who, as of now, would headline the next free-agent class are Julio Urias, Nola and Shohei Ohtani, who is obviously in a tier of his own as an elite two-way player.