Why the Phillies need to keep Aaron Nola and what an extension may look like

With the trade deadline behind us, longtime Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola is officially here to stay through the end of the 2023 season. While there has been speculation that it may be Nola's last year in the City of Brotherly Love, there is still lots of upside and plenty of reasons the Phillies need to retain Nola however they can.
Aaron Nola, SP, #27, Philadelphia Phillies
Aaron Nola, SP, #27, Philadelphia Phillies / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

Right-handed starting pitcher Aaron Nola has been a member of the Philadelphia Phillies for almost nine full seasons as we move into August of 2023 and has been regarded as the organization's ace for most of those seasons. Nola has struck out over 1,500 batters in a Phillies uniform while recording a career ERA of 3.71 and a WHIP of 1.126 across over 1,300 innings with the club. He was an All-Star in 2018, is currently the longest-tenured Phillie, and has finished top-ten in Cy Young award voting three times.

Despite his impressive resume, Aaron Nola was regarded as a potential trade candidate as the Phillies had a slow start to the 2023 MLB season. While the Phillies climbed back to be double-digit games over a .500 winning percentage and are in the driver's seat to be the top Wild Card in the National League, Nola's future with the Phillies remains as uncertain as ever as he is set to hit Free Agency following the 2023 season.

The Phillies need to hold on to their longtime ace, and an extension for Aaron Nola may not be as costly as you think.

Before the 2020 season, Aaron Nola signed a four-year $45 million contract that went through his final two years of arbitration eligibility and lasted for the two seasons following. The deal was a win for both sides as the Phillies locked up their ace on a budget for four seasons, while Nola got to make more money than he would've under arbitration while having more long-term security.

Flash forward to the end of the fourth year of the deal, and Nola has still showcased his ability to go deep into games and strike out plenty of batters with 143.1 innings pitched and 147 strikeouts across 23 starts. However, Nola also has his third-highest career ERA in a season of 4.58 and is on track to allow the most home runs he has ever given up in a season at 26 as we enter August.

While this may have turned some off to the Phillies extending Aaron Nola, it will make the pitcher that much easier to land him on a team-friendly extension. It seems believable that Nola would land a contract less than the six-year $162 million deal the New York Yankees signed left-handed starter Carlos Rodon to last offseason. Spotrac.com currently has Nola's market value at $23.3 million annually.

$23.3 million annually seems like more than the Phillies would be willing to dish out for the 30-year-old Nola, as they currently have the fifth-ranked payroll in the MLB at $245 million and are second to only the New York Mets with $193 million already committed to players for the 2024 season. However, Nola has already taken one team-friendly deal to stay in Philadelphia, and it may be a perfect storm for the two sides to work out a win-win contract again.

The upcoming free-agent class of starting pitchers is currently loaded. Two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, with names such as Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias set to join Ohtani in the UFA market. Lance Lynn and Kyle Hendricks await club options for 2024, while Marcus Stroman has a player option to decide on.

Fellow starter Zack Wheeler is set to hit free agency after the 2024 season. Wheeler has been phenomenal with a 3.02 ERA, a 1.059 WHIP, and 612 strikeouts in 568.1 innings pitched in a Phillies' uniform, but will turn 35 during the 2025 season and will likely carry a higher price tag than Nola. While the future seems as uncertain as ever as the 2023 regular season winds down, it would be in the best interests of both sides for the Phillies and Nola to reach an agreement to keep the ace in the City of Brotherly Love.