Phillies Aaron Nola: Big Manageable Risk, Opportunity to Improve Elsewhere
Phillies' $172 million deal with Aaron Nola is a risky move, but they're banking on his current performance over future production.
The future production of Aaron Nola is of less importance to the Phillies than his current performance. The Phillies have committed to paying Nola an average salary of $24.6 million through his 36-year-old season, making it the fourth richest contract among active starting pitchers. This contract reflects the risk that the Phillies are taking, as it surpasses the deals of other pitchers who threw significantly fewer innings last season. However, Nola has shown remarkable durability over his nine years with the Phillies, completing his fifth straight season of 32+ starts and reaching a career-high of 230 2/3 innings in 2022.
Despite Nola's impressive track record, the question remains whether he can maintain this level of performance as he ages. The aging curve for starting pitchers is a concern, with only 19 pitchers logging 900+ innings between the ages of 31 and 36 since 2008, averaging 150 innings per season. The Phillies hope that Nola's new deal aligns with their window of competitiveness, but they also recognize the need for near-term certainty with their rotation, particularly in the postseason.
With Nola's contract, the Phillies have some flexibility to add more signings and address their needs for a right-handed bat and a high-leverage reliever. The decision to keep Nola reflects the Phillies' belief that the smarter money was on retaining a player they know in a setting where they have seen him succeed. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Nola's future performance, the Phillies have made a commitment to their current roster and are focused on building upon last year's success.