Dave Dombrowski had said last month that keeping Aaron Nola in the Phillies rotation was the team’s number one offseason priority. That’s what it meant.
Multiple sources told MLB.com on Sunday that the Phillies and Nola have agreed to a seven-year, $172 million deal, which is physically extensive. Nola is undergoing a physical on Monday. The team has not confirmed the deal.
Once official, Nola’s return ensures that the Phillies will have two front-line starting pitchers at the top of their 2024 rotation, with Jack Wheeler as the ace. Nola has pitched 1,065 1/3 innings since 2018, the second-highest total in baseball after Gerrit Cole. According to Baseball Reference, Nola’s 26.0 WAR in those six seasons ranks fifth. Only Max Scherzer (29.8), Cole (29.7), Wheeler (26.4), and Jacob deGrom (26.1) have been better.
The 30-year-old Nola is also having an outstanding performance in the 2023 postseason, providing some relief from the regular-season struggles and, importantly, boosting his free-agent stock. The right-hander allowed only two earned runs in 23 innings with 23 strikeouts during the postseason.
Nola’s regular season wasn’t as stellar; he posted a 4.46 ERA last year, which never dipped below 4.00 or rose above 5.00 anytime since April 28. His strikeout rate dropped to 25.5 percent, his lowest since 2016. He surrendered 32 home runs, the seventh-most in MLB. For a pitcher who posted a career-best 2.37 ERA in the stellar 2018 campaign and a 3.25 ERA in 2022, it was certainly a step back. Nor was this Nola’s first; his ERA was 3.87 in 2019 and a concerning 4.63 in 2021. However, every time, Nola has bounced back.
Up to that point, with his strong performance in October, there were other positive signs in his 2023 season: a robust 5.7% walk rate and a 34.7% chase rate (misses/swings) that ranked 96th percentile in MLB.
Selected by the Phillies with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft from LSU, Nola had a challenging start a year later with the Phillies. He has started 235 games with Philadelphia, including 32 in each of the last three seasons. Nola’s peak came in 2018 when he led MLB in pitching WAR and finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting. After falling in the NLDS in 2023 with the Phillies, Nola expressed a desire to return to Philadelphia.