Phillies Re-Sign Aaron Nola in First Major Free Agent Signing

Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies

Aaron Nola was primed to cash in after nine strong seasons with the Phillies. The 30-year-old was a model of consistency in Philadelphia, as he logged at least 180 innings in each of the last five full seasons and was efficient in those innings. Not to mention, Nola proved to be a gamer in the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Nola’s now off the board, and he’s set to stick with the Phillies for seven more years. Here’s a closer look at Nola and the deal.

Related: What to Make of the Scott Barlow-Enyel De Los Santos Trade

A Look at Nola

The Phillies drafted Aaron Nola in the first round almost a decade ago in 2014, and now Philadelphia can keep him through the 2030 campaign and age-37 campaign.

After a solid rookie campaign in 2015, Nola quickly established himself as one of the game’s premier strikeout pitchers. The righty punched out 184 in 168 frames two years later, then struck out 224 in the 2018 campaign that saw him finish third in the NL Cy Young vote.

This past season, Nola punched out 202 batters to give him his fifth consecutive full season with 200 or more strikeouts.

Aaron Nola whiff chart 2023
Nola has a number of weapons that can get hitters to chase, including a nasty knuckle-curve.

While he doesn’t throw very hard, his low-to-mid-90s fastball can speed up on hitters thanks to above-average extension. But what’s set him apart over the years is his ability to get hitters to chase with the other stuff, namely a good changeup that pairs well with the four-seamer and sinker, and his signature knuckle-curve that consistently ranks above-average in terms of vertical movement.

That movement allows for Nola to get whiffs, as well as weak contact, as it’s hard to barrel it up at all.

Aside from the slightly elevated home run, hit, and ERA figures in 2021 and 2023, Nola’s past three seasons have been incredible in terms of punchouts and command. The 30-year-old is one of just 10 pitchers to throw at least 450 innings, have a K/9 rate of 10.0 or higher, and a 2.0 BB/9 or lower rate over the last three seasons. The only other two were Max Scherzer and Zack Wheeler.

Aaron Nola HR chart 2023
All of Aaron Nola’s home runs in 2023. Needless to say, his stuff got a lot of plate.

The deal — a seven-year pact worth $172MM — and Nola’s AAV of $24,571,429 puts the righty in the top ten of all current MLB pitchers in terms of average annual value, behind Carlos Rodon but slightly ahead of Zack Wheeler. It’s a high price, but Nola’s been one of the game’s best since 2018.

What it Means

Nola entered free agency as the third-best pitcher available on our big board, behind only two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani and Blake Snell.

Ohtani’s value goes well beyond his stuff on the mound, so this deal doesn’t really affect what he’ll net. However, it does somewhat set the mark for what Snell might make.

Both Snell and Nola are 30-year-old pitchers, with Snell having the edge in personal accolades, K/9. Nola, meanwhile, held the edge in ERA, FIP, and WHIP. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Snell get a deal either at or slightly above Nola’s.

As for the Phillies, this deal does give Philadelphia the opportunity to run it back with both him and Zack Wheeler as the 1-2 atop the rotation that also will likely include Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker, and Cristopher Sanchez.

Wheeler’s a free agent himself after 2024 and he may very be due a raise from the $23.6MM average annual value his current contract has.

But at least for 2024, the focus can now be on filling out a roster that came just one win away from a second World Series appearance a month ago. The contract for Nola is high, nor is it risk-averse — but that was expected. However, his stuff and smarts do give this deal a solid chance to age well.