Aaron Nola will take the mound on Tuesday night for the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLCS versus the Diamondbacks. The question is, are we coming towards the end of his time in Philadelphia?
Following the completion of Nola's four-year, $45 million deal, the Phillies exercised their club option worth $16 million for the 2023 campaign. As such, he will become a free agent at the conclusion of the current postseason.
If you listen to the 30-year-old and the front office, both sides say they want a reunion next season. As per Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Nola said, "Yeah I hope so, I really do. I love it here. Obviously it's the only place I've been. I came up through some special times in the rebuilding era, and getting to witness and be a part of a lot of different types of teams."
From the front office side, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was asked about signing the 2018 All-Star to an extension. As per Alex Coffey, also of The Philadelphia Inquirer, he said, "It's something we'd like to do. We want Aaron to be in the organization for a long time, no question. We love him. We love his abilities. I know he likes it in Philadelphia."
A vast difference in valuation
However, Dombrowski did also add that it's never easy to get such a negotiation done. And really, that's the key in all of this proverbial song and dance.
In this respect, the two sides did start discussing a contract extension during the last offseason. However, if you take into account the latest report regarding this negotiation, it seems Nola and the Phillies were never particularly close to an agreement.
As per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the pitcher apparently wanted an eight-year contract worth more than $200 million. However, the Phillies front office was only looking for a four or five-year deal.
Providing more insight into just how far apart the two sides allegedly were, consider a previous report from the New York Post's Jon Heyman. Back in May, Heyman wrote that the Phillies offered north of $100 million, but far short of the $162 million fellow pitcher Carlos Rodon received from the Yankees.
Is a deal a realistic proposition?
So where does this leave Nola, when it comes to re-signing with the Phillies for next season? Certainly, you can appreciate why he would want the security of eight years, given his age.
However, the Phillies' reluctance to not go beyond five years alludes to some concern on their part about the righty's age. At the same time, he's proven extremely durable in starting at least 32 games every season dating back to 2018 except 2020, which was shortened considerably due to COVID-19.
Further complicating the situation, is the argument that Nola hasn't thrown as well as in previous seasons. His 4.46 ERA is the third-worst of his nine years in the Majors, while his 4.03 FIP is only topped by 4.04 during his rookie year.
Not that we're trying to imply the 2014 seventh overall draft pick has been terrible, either. He was second on the Phillies in quality starts, while a 1.15 WHIP incorporates the third-lowest walk rate of his career.
Where Nola could really make a strong case for himself, is to continue pitching well in the postseason. He's been excellent so far, through two starts.
First up against the Marlins, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native allowed just three hits and one walk during seven shutout innings. He followed this up by striking out nine versus the Braves and not giving up any runs until the sixth inning, in a 10-2 win.
Overall, as much as both sides say they want a reunion next season, the chances are Nola will at least test the free agent waters to see what's out there. As such, fans should make the most of his start on Tuesday night and for however long the Phillies remain in the postseason, just in case.