The Phillies have officially reached a long-term deal with star righty Aaron Nola. The contract, which forestalls an arbitration hearing and expands the team’s control rights over its best pitcher, is said to be a four-year, $45MM deal that includes a club option.
Nola, a client of Paragon Sports, will receive a $2MM signing bonus and $4MM salary for the coming season. He’ll then earn successive salaries of $8MM, $11.75MM, and $15MM. The 2023 option is valued at $16MM and includes a $4.25MM buyout. Nola’s 2022 salary and 2023 option value will reportedly each increase by $1MM for each Cy Young win he secures, by $500K for a second-place finish and by $250K for finishing third through fifth in Cy Young voting.
Ultimately, then, the Phillies can control five future seasons of Nola, including 2019, at a total outlay of just $56.75MM (or perhaps a bit more, depending on Cy Young finishes). Nola gives up two would-be free agent campaigns in the deal. He had been nearing a hearing to determine his first-year arbitration salary, with his side filing at $6.7MM and the club countering at $4.5MM.
Now 25, Nola originally came to the Phillies organization as the seventh overall pick of the 2014 draft. He has rewarded the club handsomely for that selection, having already thrown 569 innings of 3.35 ERA ball at the game’s highest level while maintaining 9.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 along with a 50.9% groundball rate.
Those shiny peripherals have been there from the outset for Nola, who has been a darling of ERA estimators ever since he took a big league mound. For his career to date, Nola is credited with a 3.24 FIP, 3.29 xFIP, and 3.48 SIERA.
In a sense, then, Nola’s eye-popping 2018 season was more a continuation than a turning point. But his 212 1/3-inning effort was still clearly a coming-out party, as Nola showed he could sustain excellence over a big workload while pitching meaningful innings. His resulting 2.37 ERA would have made him a Cy Young winner in some campaigns, though he settled for a still-impressive third-place finish after Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer both turned in monster seasons.
[RELATED: MLBTR Extension Tracker]
The obvious comp for this extension is the deal reached two years ago between the Cardinals and Carlos Martinez. That agreement included more money, but a lengthier term, for another high-quality, 25-year-old hurler who was nearing a first arbitration hearing. Martinez took home a $51MM guarantee over five years, while giving the Cards successive $17MM and $18MM options with a cumulative $1MM buyout, meaning his deal would top out at seven seasons and $85MM.
Nola’s camp probably prefers his deal to Martinez’s, which set a high-water mark for arb1 pitcher extensions but did give away two additional seasons of control. Still, it’s a bit of a surprise to see that Nola did not break new ground in earnings, particularly since he secured a significant initial draft bonus in addition to already having one season of arb salary (nearly) in hand. Even if he ended up losing the hearing and suffering a major injury this spring, he’d profile as an easy 2020 tender candidate. The recent experience of Garrett Richards — who has thrown just 138 2/3 innings over the past three seasons and is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, yet earned over $20MM in his final three arb years and then signed for $15.5MM in free agency — shows that teams will pay big money to hang onto the upside of top arms. Nola’s downside was limited, even in the event of a catastrophic injury. In terms of upside scenarios, the tepid free agent market is perhaps a factor, but team squeamishness toward long-term deals did not prevent Patrick Corbin from landing six years and $140MM — due in no small part to the fact that he hit the open market at 29 years of age.
If the option is indeed picked up, Nola will stand to reach free agency in advance of his age-31 campaign. He’d certainly still have ample earning capacity at that point, though leaving two prospective free agent campaigns in the hands of the Phils unquestionably removes some of the highest-upside contract scenarios. Of course, chasing the biggest imaginable guarantee certainly isn’t the top priority for every player, and it’s not hard to see how this contract serves Nola’s own interests as well — particularly since he did deal with a worrying forearm strain not long ago.
Whatever one thinks of the deal from the player’s perspective, it seems to be an easy risk for the big-budget Phillies to take. The Martinez experience does show some of the downside risks at play, as his injuries would have tamped down his arb earnings and do cloud his future, though he’s still a talented and youthful pitcher with ample promise. Locking up Nola comes with its own risks, but loads of upside as well.
It’s notable in this case that the sides had such a wide spread in their arb filing numbers. That had set up an important hearing decision, with Nola seeking to step in not far below Dallas Keuchel’s record $7.25MM salary and the Phils defending something closer to the longstanding ceiling for first-time eligible pitchers (the 2006 Dontrelle Willis salary of $4.35MM). MLBTR projected a $6.6MM salary for Nola, though the team obviously felt comfortable with its aggressively low stance and the panel would have been forced to pick one of the two filing numbers. That left plenty of risk for Nola; the $2.2MM gap, after all, would also have been reflected in his prospective arb2 and arb3 salaries.
On the team’s side, though, the deal forecloses the greater earning situation. Had Nola landed the $6.7MM he asked for, and then turned in two more seasons in range of his career norms, he easily could have cleared $30MM in arbitration earnings and might well have done quite a bit more than that. deGrom’s other-worldly campaign scored him a record-setting $9.6MM year-over-year raise; expecting anything on that order would be foolish, of course, but that number shows the magnitude of potential earnings.
Of greater importance than controlling Nola’s arbitration earnings is the acquisition of control rights over two more seasons, his age-29 and age-30 campaigns. Had Nola hit the open market after his arb time ran out, he might well have commanded a huge and lengthy deal — with any acquiring team interested especially in capturing his remaining prime years. Doing a contract now allows the Phillies to hang onto those seasons for a relatively low price and without any need to promise Nola money well into his thirties.
Ken Rosenthal and Matt Gelb of The Athletic first reported the deal (Twitter link). Jeff Passan of ESPN.com tweeted the contract breakdown. The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reported the contract’s escalator clauses.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Such a great move especially if that 4 for 45 is true.
That’s not stupid money!
His next payday he will really cash in!!
one and half good years, idk.
Considering JA Happ signed for 34 mil in 2 years I’ll take Nola at 45 for 4 100% of the time without question.
Hey this a guy we should pay well! What’s say we pick up the lefty starter please?
Something the Mets should have done years ago with their pitchers when they would have cost much less.
Wow, thank you, Captain Hindsight.
Not hindsight Mets fans were screaming for them to do so years ago.
…and Mets fans, especially, are experts.
Like you are lol
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that DeGrom and Syndergaard should have been extended at a young age to save the club some money.
I can second that, david klein. I distinctly remember NY being abuzz about the Dark Knight, and all my Met fan friends were very vocal about giving him as long a contract as possible. Preferably until the end of his career.
@clepto His suggestion is dumb even though he has the benefit of hindsight: the Mets ace, three years ago, was Matt Harvey. The Mets are very lucky that they didn’t do what the Phils just did: hand their ace a big extension.
It is not a bargain or a steal, if the player is not healthy and productive.
Well, he’s been healthy and productive up to this point so…
Mets should have done lots of things years ago but then again they are the N.Y. Mess for a reason.
What if it was Matt Harvey that they signed a deal like this to?
What if they sign Harper. Come on boys stop fighting . It’s day !
Sorry boys the heart didn’t translate. Valentines Day!!!!
Not looking for a fight, just was pointing out that these deals don’t always work out. Signing Harvey to a deal like this a few years ago would’ve looked like a steal and every Mets fan would’ve been ecstatic.
It takes two sides to make a deal. Players have to actually want to sign contracts like these – it isn’t automatic.
Well, the Phillies just gave a long term deal to their ace. Is that what you’re suggesting the Mets should’ve done?
If you are, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that, three years ago, the Mets’ best pitcher was Matt Harvey. His career numbers, going into the 2016 season, were 2.46 ERA, 146 ERA+, 2.65 FIP, 1,000 WHIP. That was better than what deGrom had at the time, in every single category.
It was also a lot better than what Nola has now. So it would’ve taken more money to lock him up.
Let’s not forget that Matt Harvey was the one they were clamoring for the most
That is a steal
Heist for sure. Why would he give away two FA years for $15 and $16? He needs a new agent.
Yeah I mean I’m sure I’d turn down $45 million and not secure my future.
Pitches Love Velocity
Cause the free agent market isnt what it use to be and theres always the injury risk.
If he’s happy accepting the deal then good for him.
It’s for security now he is guaranteed this money even if he blows his arm out tomorrow.
Even the guys who blow their arms out still make really good money so long as they’ve shown good talent in the past. Brett Anderson has $50million in guaranteed money and is hurt every year.
He could return to form in time for FA if he were to blow out his arm this year or next, but he would lose out on significant money in arbitration if he missed a year
With the freezing status of the FA these days (which will continue till the end of the 2012 season), it may not be a bad deal for Nola.
Didn’t the 2012 season end 6 years ago???
They meant 2021 season.
Good job by the Phillies. The kids excellent. I believe this was his 1st year of arbitration, so 3 years of control were turned into 4 years plus an option. I’m not sure who’s option it is, but regardless, they have him locked up for 4 years at a minimum, during peak years. For Nola who’s had a bit of the injury concern tossed his way prior to this past season, he gets $45+ million of security, and hits the market again at age 29/30 depending on the option year. Good for both sides. With pitcher injury being what it is, I really love this for the Phillies.
It’s smart to allocated some of that alleged “stupid money” on an integral in-house star player who would be considerably more expensive had he made it to the open market. I assume the contract ends right around is age 30-31 season which is towards the beginning of a likely decline.
Wow, that is a great deal! Even if the 5th year option is for like $30mil, still an incredible deal. Nice job by the Phils on that.
The article stated that the option year was 16 million.
Wow, great move for philly.
Great deal for an ace. Nice job, Philly.
-A Braves fan
Greatest username ever.
Disagree. Honey Nut Ichiros is better. For this, you will be getting a single downvote.
Honey Nut Ichiros is pretty great hahah
I’m rather partial to Von Purple Hayes too. Good one!
Very Chris Berman-esque
LOVE this signing btw!!!!!
I prefer Jeffrey Todd Helton
Nice move by the Phillies. Now spend more of that “stupid” money and sign Harper or Machado.
Great deal for the Phillies buying out his arbitration years !
Seems really cheap for those free agent years considering where Nola already is
Security is more important than potential top dollar in some of the players minds, especially pitchers.
Not a Philly fan but I love watching Nola, good move by the Phils to lock him up
Well done Phillies! More than deserving
The NL East will be a great division to watch this year. Nats, Mets, Braves and Phillies have all impressively upgraded/retooled and each can serious contend to winning this division. All solid teams.
This truly feels like a year where good fortune will come into play – of the four teams in the division who have a legit chance to win, it may well come down to who has the healthiest team come September. Should truly be a good, exciting race this season!
They are all definitely getting better. The Marlins on the other hand, still are going to be a bad team. I do think that they will do better than, but not much better than 63-98, though.
Sounds pretty good, although I would’ve tried to go for a year or two longer if I were Philly. Still a good price though.
Smart kid. He and his agent saw the landscape and banked $50 million.
Pirates need to make a similar offer to Jameson Taillon.
Not only a great deal, but when they miss out on Harper/Machado and the fans burn the city down that contract will make him an amazing trade chip.
Think Philly has to be pretty satisfied with this offseason, even without 1 of the big 2.
The Phillies have made a lot of moves this offseason, and this is their best one yet. Nola is the real deal.
WOW. Today is starting off great!
Absolutely outstanding job by the Phillies locking this kid up long term and avoiding the animosity that an arb hearing can create. Love it!
If the Phillies players get injured, it will be “stupid money.”
Absolutely! Therefore, since pretty much every single MLB player gets injured at some point of his career, teams should beat that problem and sign NOBODY!
Waiting for the cubs to resign players ….
Looks like the owners refusal to give free agents any money is starting to pay off. This seems like an absurdly team friendly deal
What effect does this have on a DeGrom extension?
What does a DeGrom extension look like – years and dollars?
they should be very different, due to arb. years remaining, age, and DeGrom’s specifically note-worthy numbers last year.
Fans love extensions and honestly they pay off wayy better than big free agent signings… Do more of these
id say the offseason is officially successful, had it not yet been already.
I feel like he just fleeced himself. He hasn’t cashed in yet at the big league level but this deal hardly does that. The two options aren’t guaranteed on the back end and he gave up quite a bit of earning power. Obviously if he did blow his arm out tomorrow he’d be better off but…..Hitting the open market at 29 is significantly more valuable than 31 for a pitcher. Great deal from Philly’s perspective as there’s very little downside in this move. Can’t believe Nola was interested particularly after seeing how well Corbin did. I imagine 50 million bucks will change your life as much as 150 but it definitely looks like a deal for the club.
He didn’t fleece himself. He assured himself to be generationally wealthy even if he has a career ending injury tomorrow. The difference is also not between 50 and 150 million as you said. No one has offered that…there is no guarantee it will ever be offered, and he didn’t sign a contract that covers six years of free agency, only two. If he performs well enough to have signed a contract at age 29 for six years and 150 million, someone will still pay him pretty well ages 31-35. Probably not as well, but his overall earning might be 20-40 million less over the period, not 100 million less…
The risk now is that he suffers a major injury in the two years of free agency he sold and cannot sign another contract. But he’s already filthy rich so it’s not a risk that will have a great impact should it come to bear.
Great points all around…plus he’ll be a FA in his age 30 season. If all goes well?? Another payday.
great for all parties involved
I agree with you on most of what you said about the risk but I think you’re underestimating the value of being a FA 2 years earlier for a pitcher at that age. Look at Jake Arrieta for example. Imagine if he would’ve came out after his age 28 season instead of 30. He’d have received close to 200 million instead of 75. He potentially cost himself a lot of money here. Really the only way this is a fantastic deal for him is if he gets hurt. If he’s healthy and 80% of the pitcher he is now throughout the contract it’s still a monetary loss.
Wow great move by the Phillies. I have to say I’m shocked Nova gave up the free agent years. I think this speaks more to what’s going on right now with the organization (in on Bryce Harper, lots of young talent, ready to make a run). The support from ownership and the front office has been fantastic and I could definitely see a young player being excited about spending the next few season wearing a Phillies uniform (which is something I don’t say often).
This is a great strategy by the Phillies and increases the chances that they can retain him even after the current contract. At 30-31, they won’t have to worry about someone offering 7-9 years and massive money. They can probably bring him back on a nice 5 year deal if he lives up to and exceeds his current contract (as I expect he will by a landslide).
Fantastic move Phillies. As someone said earlier, the Wilpons should be taking notes from their rivals on how to secure your aces. They had this opportunity, especially with DeGrom 2 years ago and probably could have gotten him to sign a similar deal. Noah would be harder, but with DeGrom looking like their #2, they could have probably locked him up at Nola-esque money. Now, forget about it. Start the bidding at $150-200 mil folks!
Win win scenario, solid move by both sides. Takes the arb process out totally which can fragment player-management relationships, the team has cost certainty at the top of their rotation and Nola will still hit FA at 30 or 31 so still in line for a potential huge payday. Great price for the 2 FA years also. Well played.
Like seeing good pitchers extend for a life changing guarantee even if $$ left on the table since the injury risk is all too real before reaching FA. No allegiance to the team involved, but hope it pays off for both sides.
Sign me up for 5 of those deals any day
Wow! Nice job, Phillies! Seems like Klentak is doing everything right this off-season!
Like all long term deals, it’s dumb. MOST such deals, especially for pitchers, turn into Homer Bailey-s. Nova has now zero motivation to do anything but show up for 4 years.
Expect a drop off in performance, a series of “nagging injuries”, etc., etc. Then, a year before the contract is up, he’ll “feel better than he ever has in his life” and do very well.
I’ll take Betts or Lindor, guys willing to bet on themselves. Sure, it’s going to cost more on the back end of arbitration, and you’ll probably lose them to Fee Agency. So what? Thank them for their service, roll ’em down the stairs. At least you know the player has as much skin in the game as you do for the time you have them.
I agree completely with Charlie Finley; make’ ’em ALL Free Agents, EVERY year. Think what will happen to the popularity of sites like this one; “Who do we go after? Harper? Manny? Mookie? Frankie? Trout? Mad Max?”
Think of the possibilities…….
What a bad take.
Zero motivation??? How about, you know, that wacky thing called a WORLD SERIES???!!!
Oh ya, that pittance of a bonus they get for being in the playoffs amounts to, you, working overtime at your job for free. More than one player would rather spend October at home with the wife and kids.
Eliminate arbitration (which, as again Finley predicted, has become the most dumb system), grant FA after, say, 5 years after signing date. That gives a reasonable reward for player development, which is fair.
I note deGrom is telling people today that, unless he gets an extension, he’s going to “self-limit” his innings for the next 2 years. It’s a natural consequence of the current system. Jake realizes the evolving paradigm is to have a young pitcher throw his arm out when they’re cheap, then let somebody else pay them as their performance skews lower.
The days of fan identification with certain players on their favorite team are over. Sox fans want to win; if it’s with Mookie, fine. If it’s with Melky Cabrera, that’s fine too.
Bottom line, long term deals are dumb. It becomes just a matter of who it’s the dumber for, the player or the team.
The thing about professional sports is I’d you’re just in it for the money, you’re probably not gonna last very long. The vast majority of players are hyper competitive and want to be the best they could possibly be, if not one of the greatest
If everyone was a FA after the season the incentive to develop players in the minor leagues would be 0. Why would spend all the time money/effort to develop a player who will leave before he’s good? I’m just going to ignore the part of Nola just taking it easy the next few years I don’t really need to say anything about that.
Wasn’t going to be a free agent until after 2021, so he gives up one, possibly 2 free agent seasons (if the Phillies pick up his 2023 option). Still, he will get between $45M over 4 years or $56.75M for 5 years and still hit the FA market at age 28-29. Seems like a deal that benefits both parties.
If I remember correctly, Nola was selected by the Phillies in the same draft that the White Sox chose Carlos Rodon as the third overall pick. Comparing the trajectory of their two careers to date, it’s evident that the Phillies, choosing later, got the better pitcher. Congratulations to Nola on his extension, and best wishes to Rodon as he works to become the ace of the Sox staff.
This is exactly the kind of deal the Braves should be trying to ink with Mike Foltynewicz.
Nola is clearly factoring in a year and half off for TJ surgery.
Nice move for both sides. Phillies have a homegrown star under control, Nola has financial security for a few lifetimes in exchange for hitting free agency two years later.
Considering free agency isn’t exactly the boon it used to be, those two years matter less than they used to.
Guaranteed $45 mil at age 25 for him and his family. Smart move on his part.
Absolutely a good deal. I hope the Brewers start doing this, they have a lot of young players they could start locking up and add 2 or 3 years on the window of competing. I get some will complain about owners are getting richer but to a point they have a right to do that too to a point. I think the more stability that these cities and teams get they could add more expansion. Along with more jobs. It would be nice to maybe get more of these owners to be able to pay for their own stadiums and minor league teams, which can probably add more stability too.
Seems like Nola’s camp left a lot on the table. That’s a bargain for the Phils.
Time to lock up Rhys Hoskins and JT Realmuto next and the Phillies will be in great shape.
Everyone happy within this deal
Good deal for the Phillies. I have to sit back and hope the Braves can make similar moves as their players mature.
Sweet deal! Glad Nora got paid too. Everyone wins.
Consistently modifying your previous thoughts by adding “then” in the middle of sentences weakens your argument and could confuse readers. It’s a meaningless filler word that you can remove: it doesn’t add anything to your point. More likely, it detracts from it.
I’m surprised he was signed so low