The Philadelphia Phillies have been on a tear this October as they continue to win games in the postseason. The offense has been firing on all cylinders and giving the pitchers plenty of run support. The pitching staff has been stellar — particularly the starters.
The Phillies' starting pitching has compiled a 1.55 ERA over 46 1/3 innings. The rotation has struck out 51 hitters in that span and has a WHIP of 0.67. It has been a major reason for the club's recent success.
Soon-to-be free agent Aaron Nola has been a huge part of the rotation's success. Nola has collected the win in each of his three postseason starts. In 18 2/3 innings, he has allowed just two earned runs. He has been integral to the club in big games, despite a subpar regular season.
Now that Nola is nearing the end of his contract, the Phillies will have to decide how much they are willing to spend to keep him. Here's why the club should attempt to lock up their longest-tenured player.
Aaron Nola is reliable
Nola has been about as durable as they come in recent years. He has not logged less than 180 innings since 2017 — disregarding the shortened 2020 season. Nola dealt with some injuries in 2017, but since then, he has only landed on the IL once.
While Nola's ERA can fluctuate, and he was prone to giving up home runs in 2023, finding healthy, reliable starting pitching is no easy task. In an era in which starting pitchers do not log the same number of innings or games started as they once did, getting 30-plus games from a top-tier pitcher is invaluable.
Aaron Nola is one of the top free agent pitchers
In a starting pitching free agent class that consists of names such as Shohei Ohtani, Blake Snell, Lucas Giolito, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery and Julio Urías, Nola fits in with some of the best names. Ohtani — despite not being able to pitch in 2024 — will be the most coveted name on the list. Snell will finish in the top three in NL Cy Young Award voting and likely command a huge deal. Gray had a great year but is 34 years old next season.
Nola's standard statistical numbers may be behind some of these free agents, but he is easily a top-tier pitcher in a very thin market. Starting pitching is hard to come by, as we have seen in the playoffs. Many teams don't have a dependable third or fourth starter, and bullpen games are becoming the norm.
Passing on Nola would leave the Phillies with a hole that would be difficult to fill.
Organizational depth hurt by injuries and setbacks to pitching prospects
Phillies' top pitching prospect Andrew Painter won't be available for the 2024 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this year. Griff McGarry could not find his command and struggled through much of the season at Double-A and Triple-A. Mick Abel ended the season well and represented the Phillies at the Futures Game, but still had command issues and isn't a slam dunk to make the 2024 Opening Day roster.
If the Phillies were to replace Nola, it would likely have to come via trade, as no prospects are readily available to fill the role that he does. Other free agents will be more expensive or less reliable than Nola, too.
There is no doubt that starting pitching is the top priority of many teams heading into the offseason. The Phillies would set themselves back if they didn't have a pitcher who could handle the innings and big games that Nola does. While he may come at a price that seems over-market value, that's how the market is right now.
Reports surfaced earlier this week that Nola and his camp were asking for a contract of eight years and worth around $200 million last offseason. That would average $25 million a year which is not a bad price for a pitcher of Nola's caliber.
The issue here is the length of the contract. Nola would be almost 40 by the end of a deal that long, and his arm would have seen too many innings. If the club and Nola can meet somewhere in the 5-to-6-year range — even if it means going up to $27-28 million per year — the club should consider it.