Aaron Nola has a date on Valentine’s Day, but there will be no wine, no dinner, no chocolate.
Nola on Monday night revealed that his salary arbitration showdown with the Phillies is scheduled for Feb. 14. A three-person panel will decide his 2019 salary during a hearing in St. Petersburg, Florida, that day. The Phillies will hold their first workout for pitchers and catchers the day before in nearby Clearwater.
“This is baseball, the business part of the game,” Nola said before accepting the Professional Athlete of the Year award at the 115th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association dinner. “No hard feelings between us. Whatever happens happens. We’re just going to go through it.”
Arbitration hearings can often be unpleasant experiences, turning teams and players into adversaries. Some players choose to accompany their agents into the hearings. Some don’t.
Nola said he was planning to attend.
“I actually haven’t talked to anybody that has gone through it, but, yeah, I think I’ll be going in and sitting down,” Nola said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about.”
Nola, 25, had a brilliant season for the Phillies in 2018. He finished fourth in the majors in ERA (2.37) and quality starts (25) and fifth in innings (212 1/3) and WHIP (0.97) on his way to a third-place finish in the NL Cy Young voting. He was clearly one of the best pitchers in baseball and wants to be compensated as such in 2019.
After failing to agree on a one-year contract earlier this month, Nola and the team exchanged potential salary figures. The Phillies filed at $4.5 million while Nola came in at $6.75 million. Though an agreement can still be struck between the two sides, Nola said he expects that the matter will be resolved in a hearing. During the hearing, the arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides and pick one salary figure or the other. There is no middle ground.
Nola made $573,000 in 2018. His salary request is not far off the $7.25 million that Dallas Keuchel got from Houston as a first-time arbitration player in 2016. Keuchel won the American League Cy Young Award the year before.
Nola acknowledged that his side was using Keuchel as a comparable.
“I don’t think there’s much of a secret anymore,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in arbitration.”
Manager Gabe Kapler said he did not believe a hearing would cause any bad feelings between his ace and the ballclub.
“I think there’s some personality components to that,” Kapler said. “Like for Aaron, no. Because he’s stoic, right? I don’t see him getting too high or too low. I think there are players outside of our organization who get their feelings hurt in this process. I don’t see Aaron as the type of guy that would get his feelings hurt in an arbitration process. That’s my take on it.”
Though Nola said he was unaware of anything that might be in the works, it’s not out of the question that he and the Phillies could explore a long-term extension. Nola is the type of young talent the Phillies would like to lock up. General manager Matt Klentak has been asked about the possibility of a long-term deal for Nola and, as a matter of policy, has steadfastly refused comment on the matter.
“If they ever came up and said anything (about a long-term extension), I’d have to think about it,” Nola said.
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