- Aaron Nola will become a free agent at the end of 2023.
- In March, the Phillies said that extension negotiations with Nola had broken off.
- In free agency, the Angels, Padres, and Yankees are top contenders to sign the star pitcher.
Ace starter Aaron Nola will become a free agent at the end of 2023, and after nine seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, the idea of the 30-year-old suiting up in another club’s uniform is quite jarring. Still, Nola will be one of the top pitchers of this offseason’s free agency market, and competition to sign him is expected to be fierce.
In March, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters that extension talks between Nola and the team had broken off, and a deal is unlikely to be pursued further. Having signed a four-year, $45 million contract extension with Nola in February 2019, the 2023 season saw the Phillies exercise their $16 million club option to keep the All-Star for a fifth year, but an entirely new extension would be needed after this season.
The Astros had 2 on with 1 out in the 2nd, but Aaron Nola gets the back to back strikeouts to get out of it! @Phillies
📺: FOX and the FOX Sports App pic.twitter.com/kRSHGCaN1s
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) November 3, 2022
Unfortunately for Nola, who’s presumably looking to impress before contract negotiations with new teams, the 2023 season has so far proven to be one of the weakest of his career.
As of June 13, he’s posted a 4.60 ERA with 1.10 WHIP and 84 strikeouts through 14 starts, and while those stats definitely aren’t bad, they’re still a long way from the ace-caliber numbers Nola’s proven himself capable of in the past. While the MLB season is a long one, and it’s premature to assume a rocky start will negatively impact his options in free agency, Nola will need to turn it around soon if he wants to cash in as one of the best available starters on the market.
So with contract extension talks with the Phillies having come to a halt, and Nola leaving the team at the end of 2023, where could he be headed for 2024 and beyond?
Aaron Nola: Potential Landing Spots
Los Angeles Angels
Even if the Angels are stubborn enough to keep Shohei Ohtani until the end of the season, they’re almost certain to lose him this winter when he’s due to hit free agency. Regardless of whether he goes at the trade deadline or the end of 2023, losing Ohtani will be a major hit, and finding a game-changer to take his spot in the rotation will likely be a top priority for the endlessly-rebuilding team.
Nola could be exactly what they’re looking for.
Other than Ohtani and Tyler Anderson, the Angels’ starting rotation is very young and inexperienced, and it’s proving to be shaky at best. Los Angeles needs a leader, and after nine years and an established career with the Phillies, Nola could step into that role seamlessly.
San Diego Padres
The Padres are expected to fiercely pursue Ohtani in free agency, but if they come up short against the many other interested teams, they’re likely to be shopping for an ace elsewhere. Nola may just fit the bill.
For the last year, the Padres have proven they’re going all in on securing a World Series title for San Diego. From their aggressive approach at the 2022 trade deadline to their continued spending in the offseason, the Padres have padded their roster with stars, but it’s yet to pay off how they’d like. Without one hell of a comeback this season, the Padres are effectively out of contention, so I expect more big moves to be on the horizon this offseason.
Starting pitchers Yu Darish and Blake Snell will hit free agency at the end of 2023, so even if the Padres do manage to land Ohtani, they’re likely to have at least one spot in their rotation to fill. San Diego will be looking for a reliable starter to help finally bring home a much sought-after World Series title, and I won’t be surprised if they’re very interested in Nola to fill that role.
New York Yankees
Without contract extensions, the Yankees are poised to lose both Luis Severino and Frankie Montas to free agency at the end of 2023, so the team will have some spots to fill in their starting rotation. The Yankees desperately need a reliable second starter to ace Gerrit Cole, and given the difficulties within their current rotation, it’s not out of the question for them to look to free agents.
New York signed Carlos Rodón during the 2022-23 offseason, but as of June 13, he’s yet to touch the mound due to all-too-familiar injury issues. Nestor Cortes has struggled all season and has now found himself on the IL with a rotator cuff strain, and Domingo Germán can’t stay away from sticky-stuff accusations, including one that led to a 10-game suspension in April.
Even as the team bounces back from a very slow start to 2023, it’s quite clear the Yankees’ starting rotation needs an overhaul. Nola offers a reliable and experienced arm, and alongside Cole and Rodón, the Yankees could have one of the strongest pitching trios in MLB (assuming Rodón can stay healthy). With New York looking to break a 13-year AL pennant drought, I expect the team to be very interested in Nola this winter.
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