Phillies sign ace Cy Young contender Aaron Nola to 4-year extension, but what

The Philadelphia Phillies have signed their young ace starting pitcher Aaron Nola to a four-year, $45 million extension.

Nola, 25, had a breakout year on the bump for the Phillies in 2018. He had a 2.37 ERA, a career best in four major league seasons, over 212.1 innings, a career high. He placed third in the National League Cy Young voting in 2018, behind Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.

Nola deal gives Phillies some payroll certainty

Nola’s contract extension comes just one day before he and the Phillies were scheduled to head to arbitration on his 2019 salary. The extension buys out all of his arbitration years and at least his first year of free agency.

The deal also includes a club option for a fifth year that would take him through his age-30 season.

Looking at the numbers, it’s a very team-friendly deal. Especially when you compare it to the six-year, $140 million deal Patrick Corbin signed with the Washington Nationals. Corbin is four years older than Nola, has a spottier track record, and a lower ceiling than Nola. Nola’s worth more than the Phillies are giving him in the first few years of his deal, but the uncertainty of arbitration means his salaries in those years are wildly unpredictable. This extension gives Nola security and allows him to avoid arbitration.

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Aside from wanting to lock down their young ace, there was no urgent reason for the Phillies and Nola to ink this extension. Nola had three years of arbitration left before he would have been a free agent at the conclusion of the 2021 season. But this deal gives the Phillies fewer things to worry about in the coming years. They know exactly what they’re paying Nola instead of heading to arbitration for the next few years, and they don’t have to worry about him hitting free agency until 2023 if they choose.

What’s next for the Phillies?

The certainty the Phillies gain from Nola’s extension will only help them if they want to make one more big move this offseason. And that move would obviously be signing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. The Phillies have been heavily involved in talks for both players, and each would be good fits for the Phillies.

Either player would make the Phillies better than they are now, but it’s easy to miss how much better the Phillies have gotten during this offseason. They signed Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson, and traded for Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. They shipped Carlos Santana off to the Cleveland Indians, meaning that Rhys Hoskins can end his time in left field and move back to his natural position at first base. They’ve strengthened the infield, outfield, and the bullpen, and signed their staff ace to a multi-year extension.

In one offseason, the Phillies have set themselves up for a run at the playoffs and gone from a team of young, inexperienced upstarts to an attractive contender. They could stop now and be content to compete with the New York Mets for one of the National League wild-card spots. But if they want to make a run at the NL East crown and hang with the Nationals and Atlanta Braves, they need to land Harper or Machado. Nola’s extension could be the last thing the Phillies do this offseason, or it could be the last thing they do before they sign one of the Big Two and officially become a team to be reckoned with.

The Phillies have inked a four-year extension with their ace starter Aaron Nola. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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