(Photo courtesy of The Athletic)
I am just going to come out and say it, the Phillies should look to move Aaron Nola before or at this year's trade deadline. Nola is entering the final year of his contract with the Phillies, and on March 26th, talks between both parties on a contract extension ended after neither side could come to an agreement.
Many individuals have spoken about two options for Nola. He leaves in free agency after the season, or the Phillies resign him either during the season or during free agency. I will present a 3rd option; he gets traded at the trade deadline.
Nola is currently in his 9th season in the MLB and with the Phillies. In those 9 years, he is 80-64, 3.64 ERA, 1413 strikeouts, 335 walks in 210 career appearances. He was an All-star in 2018, finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting in the same year, and was All-MLB 2nd Team in 2021. Looking at those stats and accolades, he does not reach the level of being an ace or being a star pitcher.
Nola has been extremely inconsistent in his tenure with the Phillies. There are games where he looks like an ace and then there are games where he looks like a AAA pitcher.
Just this season, he gave up 5 ER in one inning on Opening Day, but against the Houston Astros he pitches 8 innings while allowing 3 hits and striking out 6. My friend Chip says it best, he is consistent at being inconsistent. Aaron Nola is not an ace, and it is not even close. An ace is a pitcher you can count on to deliver for 80-90% of their starts, a star pitcher is 60-79%., and Nola is right in the 50% range.
Don't get me wrong, when Nola pitching well, he looks amazing. We saw it in the playoffs last year. In the Wild Card and the NLDS he pitched 12.2 innings, 0 earned runs, and 12 strikeouts, while getting the win in both those games. In the NLCS and in two World Series games, 12.2 innings 14 earned runs, 15 strikeouts, while getting the loss in two of the three games.
Aaron Nola is going attract a large contract this offseason. He can be a very dominating pitcher, but he can also be a very shaky pitcher. People continue to focus on the 2018 season and his 2022 playoff performances. They continue to overlook how his record each year is at .500 or right above. The Phillies should not invest in a large contract with Aaron Nola, when it is the flip of a coin in what kind of performance Nola is going to have.
Seeing how contract talks have been tabled between Nola and the Phillies, it seems Nola wants a large contract like an ace and the Phillies do not agree. I would expect both parties to part ways this offseason.
The Phillies season can go one of two ways. They continue to play mediocre baseball, or they get their acts together. If for some reason Nola looks like a star pitcher, then hold onto him, but if he continues to play mediocre baseball, then why not try and get something out of him?
The Phillies biggest weakness is starting pitching. Taking Nola out of the rotation, could hurt it with their lack of depth, but could also help it. Ranger Suarez is expected to return to the rotation soon, and pitchers like Matt Strahm and Bailey Falter have shown glimpses of being semi-reliable starters. The pitching rotation would be missing "big name" pitchers but if the job gets done that is all that matters.
If there is a team making a playoff push and wants to add pitching depth, the Phillies could pick up some valuable prospects in doing so. The Phillies farm system is not strong, so adding more leverage in our future could be beneficial. Phillies #2 prospect Mick Abel has been lights out in AA Reading, by the August 1st trade deadline, expect him to be called up to AAA, and if continues to pitch well there, he could be a possible Aaron Nola replacement.
Aaron Nola's future in Philadelphia is going to come down to Nola making the Phillies believe in him. If they are in a playoff hunt, but see Nola as more of a hinderance rather than a reliable pitcher, they should move on and get some assets. Aaron Nola needs to prove to the club in the next few starts that he deserves to be kept on the team for the 2023 playoff push.