It may not seem that way now, but Dave Dombrowski wasn’t confident when the offseason began that the Phillies would be able to lock up Aaron Nola long-term — let alone find common ground on a contract on Nov. 19, five days before Thanksgiving and before… Two weeks of MLB Winter Meetings.
optimistic? Yes. convinced? no.
“I wasn’t confident,” the Phillies president of baseball operations said Monday afternoon in a news conference to announce Nola’s new seven-year, $172 million contract.
“Even though I knew Aaron loved it here, anytime someone goes into free agency, you never know what might happen. So no, I wasn’t confident in any way. I was optimistic and I thought it would be “A great, successful decision. For everyone.”
Teams have been aggressively moving after Nola, with the Braves and Dodgers reportedly making offers similar to the Phillies, while the Cardinals have also checked into Nola’s camp and the Red Sox are believed to be lurking as well. Everyone needs to start promoting. Nola was one of the top three picks on the free agent market. The list of suitors was only going to grow.
Immediately after the season ended, Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos made it clear that Atlanta’s payroll would rise and that starting pitching was a goal. In recent days, the Braves purged their 40-man roster by trading right-hander Kyle Wright to the Royals and seven non-tender players, the most of any team.
“It was important that we keep him for ourselves, but I definitely didn’t want him to go to Atlanta either, and he’s a guy in your own division,” Dombrowski said. “There were other clubs interested in him too, there were a lot of them. I wasn’t looking forward to facing a player like him with us.”
Nola could have found more money elsewhere — whether in average annual salary, gross value, or both — but that wasn’t the only factor for the Louisiana native who adapted to the Northeast, married and made a home away from home for the past decade . .
“I always wanted to be Philly, I’ve always been Philly. This is the only place we have our eyes on,” he said. “It was the most comfortable place for me. Everyone in this organization was so committed to winning, so committed to the players. The relationships I made will last a lifetime. I feel like it will be hard to walk away from that.” who are these people.
“It’s not really about the money for me, it’s about being where we want to be for the next seven years. That part is more important to me, the relationships and memories that I’ve made here and that we’ve made as a team. That trumps (the money).”
Despite the ties, seven years and $172 million still represents a ton of coin, more years and dollars than the Phillies offered a single pitcher. There’s a good chance Nola will deal with injury at some point over the course of the contract, it’s just the fact of throwing a lot of pitches year after year. He leads the National League in innings pitched since 2018 and hasn’t missed a start in six seasons. The Phillies will continue to expect Nola to remain very durable, but paying that kind of money to any pitcher is a risk. That would have been a risk with Nola, Blake Snell, Sonny Gray, Yoshinobu Yamamoto or whichever arm the Phillies might trade.
“When you’re evaluating this kind of thing, you have to start with the makeup, and I don’t know if anyone in the game has better makeup than Aaron Nola,” said Sam Fuld, the company’s general manager.
One of the most important parts of the Phillies’ success in 2022 and 2023 has been the health of Zach Wheeler and Nola, the two best shortstops in the National League. The right time comes for every archer and the decline is not always gradual. Sometimes it’s surprising, as has been the case with Roy Halladay, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and James Shields in recent years, to name a few.
There’s no way to guarantee validity, but both Nola and Dombrowski spoke Monday about the value of Nola stepping back at times.
“I definitely thought about it, and I certainly hope I age well,” Nola said. “I’m going to do everything I can to stay healthy. I feel like I have some ways I can stay healthy and stay healthy, but it’s all about what I need to do and what I need to do.” no You need to do. If I’m too tired, there won’t be one specific thing I have to do every day anymore. I learned early in my career that this wasn’t for me. Finding my routine early in my career helped me a lot.”
Nola’s contract runs through 2030, the year before Bryce Harper expires. The Phillies now have seven players earning at least $20 million annually, with Taijuan Walker not far behind at $18 million annually.
There’s a big part of the team in place. The rotation is set from one to five with Wheeler, Nola and the Rangers’ Suarez, Walker and Christopher Sanchez. Eight of the nine everyday spots are claimed and the final spot could be filled internally if Johan Rojas shows enough offensive improvement in spring training.
What’s on the horizon for the Phillies this offseason?
“I think the way we’re going to look at it now is that we’re in a position to evaluate a lot of different things that can make our club better,” Dombrowski said. “We don’t really have a clear spot that we need to fill like we needed a starting pitcher. We’re very involved in our bullpen, but of course you can always be better. Our position players are at our position, and our outfield is basically defined. “Outside, we have a little question. “We don’t really have a clear need but we will continue to look to see how we can improve.”
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