Phillies starter Aaron Nola will go into the off-season as one of the top available free agent pitchers, but Philadelphia’s expected to make a strong push to re-sign him, according to a report from the New York Post’s Jon Heyman.
It’s reported that the Phillies had at least some discussion with Nola this past winter about an extension, but their offer – which came in north of $100MM but south of the $162MM Carlos Rodon received from the Yankees – clearly didn’t get the job done. Heyman adds that Nola prefers a return to Philadelphia, and while 29 other teams could make a run at him in the winter, the Phillies will likely try again to keep him in town.
Nola’s off to a slower start than usual this year, working to a 4.64 ERA through his first seven starts, but has been one of the game’s most durable pitchers in recent seasons. He’s made more than 30 starts in every full season going back to 2018, and has compiled a very healthy 3.47 ERA in that time with above average walk and strikeout rates. As for this season, seven starts is not an insignificant sample size, and a slight drop in velocity in his fastball has seen his strikeout rate dip to just 19.2%, the lowest rate of his career.
As Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted about a week ago, Nola is a slow worker and the pitch clock change has been a tough adjustment for him. In any case, it’s certainly too early to write off Nola based on seven starts and it’s worth noting that the bulk of the damage was done in his first three starts, and he’s averaging almost seven innings per start with a 3.29 ERA since then.
While there’s still a full season to play out, Nola’s track record should stand him in good stead to do well in free agency. While he may not possess the dominant stuff Rodon displayed in the past two seasons, his durability is far superior and as we see so often, that is a huge value add for starting pitchers. With that in mind, it’s unsurprising Nola seemingly wasn’t interested in a deal below Rodon’s $162MM.
Here’s some more notes from around the NL East:
- Sticking with the Phillies to begin with, and they’ll move Matt Strahm back to the bullpen with Ranger Suarez expected to return to the rotation shortly, per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Strahm’s given the Phillies some solid value out of the rotation, making six starts and working to a 3.51 ERA – including three scoreless starts. That’s been hugely helpful to a Phillies rotation that’s been slow out of the gates, with Nola and Zack Wheeler sporting ERAs above four and off-season recruit Taijuan Walker sitting at 6.91. The return of Suarez from an elbow injury will be a welcome addition, particularly if he can continue the excellent work he put in last season, where he worked to a 3.65 ERA across 29 starts. The Phillies have made a slow start to the season, sitting 15-18 entering play Saturday and seven games adrift of the Braves in first place, so the return of players like Suarez and Bryce Harper will be critical to getting them back in the race for one of baseball’s more competitive divisions.
- The Mets are one more team off to a slower than expected start, after another busy off-season they sit 17-16 entering play Saturday. That’s not concerning GM Billy Eppler though, who told reporters (including Tim Britton of The Athletic) that he still believes in this roster. “I believe in this team and the players that are here. There’s too much track record, there’s too much these guys have accomplished, there’s too much know-how,” Eppler said. While a 17-16 record is certainly not the end of the world, the Mets expected better and one focus might be the top of the team’s payroll, where some of their highly-paid stars are underperforming through the first month. Starling Marte is hitting just .219/.299/.286 while Max Scherzer has a 5.56 ERA, yet Eppler says he’s not concerned by either. The Mets also just welcomed back Justin Verlander from the IL, so his return to the rotation will provide a big boost as they look to keep up with the Braves.
- Kyle Wright’s MRI revealed a right shoulder strain which the Braves will re-evaluate at a later date, per Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There is currently no timetable for his return. After a breakout season in 2022 which saw him finish tenth in NL Cy Young voting, Wright’s struggled in 2023, working to a 5.79 ERA in five starts. It seems likely the shoulder played a part in that step back, given Wright dealt with shoulder problems during spring training, and started the season on the IL. That’s a blow for Wright, who made 30 starts and pitched to a 3.19 ERA last season. The Braves, at least, are in a good position to weather the loss of Wright, with Spencer Strider, Max Fried and Charlie Morton all well established arms in Atlanta’s rotation, and Bryce Elder enjoying a strong start to the season.