The Phillies picked up their $16MM club option on Aaron Nola for the 2023 season, the New York Post’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). The option contained a $4.25MM buyout, but there was no chance the Phils weren’t going to retain the star right-hander for another season.
Drafted seventh overall in the 2014 draft, Nola made his MLB debut the very next season, and has gone on to become the gem of Philadelphia’s oft-maligned player development system. Since the start of the 2018 season, no pitcher has thrown more innings than Nola’s 871 2/3 frames, and he has paired that durability with a 3.47 ERA. (Even that number is a bit misleading, as Nola had a 3.26 SIERA in 2021 but only a 4.63 ERA due to some sheer bad luck.) That five-stretch also saw Nola finish third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2018, and he collected a seventh-place finish in 2020.
It seems likely that Nola will again appear on some Cy Young ballots this year, after his 3.25 ERA over 205 innings, a league-best 8.1 K/BB rate and 1.3 BB/9, as well as excellent strikeout, hard-hit ball, and chase rates. Nola reached for the postseason for the first time in his career, starting five games during the Phillies’ run to their first World Series appearance since 2009.
Back in February 2019, Nola signed a four-year extension worth at least $45MM in guaranteed money. With the option exercised, that deal is now a five-year, $56.75MM pact that has already been worth every penny for the Phillies. The right-hander doesn’t even turn 30 until June, and the question now becomes whether or not the Phillies can sign Nola to another extension. Locking Nola up to another long-term deal would be a good way of ensuring some more rotation stability, as Zack Wheeler’s contract is up after 2024 and Ranger Suarez is arbitration-controlled through 2025. Top prospect arms like Andrew Painter and Mick Abel could debut in the majors as early as 2023, but just given the timing of the expiring contracts, Painter and Abel could be viewed more as possible in-house replacement for Wheeler rather than Nola.