Aaron Nola and Phillies don’t reach deal, likely will have arbitration hearing

Aaron Nola seemed to elevate his performance against the league’s elite arms in 2018. (Brian Michael/PhilliesNation)

According to FanGraphs WAR to dollars calculation, Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola’s production during the 2018 season was worth $45.1 million. In his first of three arbitration seasons, Nola isn’t going to sniff that amount of money. However, it doesn’t appear that his representatives and the Phillies agree on just how much is a fair market value for the 25-year-old righty to make in 2019.

Teams and arbitration eligible players had until 1 p.m. Friday afternoon to exchange proposed salary figures for a potential arbitration hearing. It’s not clear what numbers the Phillies and Nola’s representatives submitted, but per ESPN‘s Jeff Passan, no deal for 2019 was reached, meaning the two sides are set to have an arbitration hearing. The date of said hearing isn’t yet known.

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projects that Nola will make $6.6 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. However, Nola finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2018, going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA, 3.01 FIP and 5.6 fWAR in 212.1 innings. His camp likely submitted a figure in excess of $6.6 million. Though the two sides can reach a deal before a potential hearing, it’s very possible they don’t, meaning a panel will be left to determine whether it’s more appropriate for Nola to make the salary that his camp submitted or the one that the Phillies did.

The two sides not reaching a deal isn’t a sign that Nola may not be long for red pinstripes. The New York Yankees didn’t reach a deal with their ace, Luis Severino, either. It’s a business, the two sides will go to arbitration – assuming a deal isn’t reached in the meantime – and Nola will be on the mound for the Phillies on Opening Day.

After the 2007 season, the Phillies went to an arbitration hearing with Ryan Howard, who had hit 127 home runs since replacing an injured Jim Thome as the starting first baseman in the summer of 2005. Howard won his case with a record $10 million settlement, three million more than the Phillies offered. The Phillies would win the World Series the next season, with Howard signing a three-year/$54 million extension that bought out his remaining arbitration years prior to the 2009 season. Notably, the Phillies went to Howard and signed him to a now-infamous five-year/$125 million extension in April of 2010, which didn’t begin until the 2012 season.

So in the grand scheme of things, a contested arbitration hearing didn’t hurt the Phillies relationship with a player that turned out to be a franchise icon. It’s unlikely to do so with Nola.

The Phillies, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, reached agreements with reliever Hector Neris ($1.8 million) and starter Jerad Eickhoff ($975,000) Thursday evening. Friday morning, the club avoided arbitration with left-handed reliever Adam Morgan by agreeing to a $1.1 million deal for 2018, per Robert Murray of The Athletic. Since the publication of this article, the Phillies have announced they agreed to deals to avoid arbitration with their remaining arbitration eligible players: Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr, Jose Alvarez, Maikel Franco and Vince Velasquez.


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  1. Craig Glessner

    January 11, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Better start planning on a long term deal for Nola or it doesn’t matter if we get Machado or Harper and loose because we give up too many runs. I’ve said all along pitching wins titles and we have one of the top pitchers in the league. Extension 8 years $ 220 million. He’d only be 33 or 34 when that runs out. That’s a lot better than overspending on some mediocre free agent who is 31 and looking for a 3 to 5 year deal.

  2. Czontixhldr

    January 11, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    Can’t agree on 8 years. That’s a bit too long, especially for a pitcher, and one who’s had elbow problems in the past.

    Sure agree with extending him, but not with the length.

  3. Craig Glessner

    January 12, 2019 at 6:37 am

    The biggest reason I would give him 8 instead of 5 is like I said I’d rather have him 3 more years at 31 instead of someone else or having to renegotiate with Nola in 5 years. With the trend contracts are on he may be averaging over $30 or $35 mill a year by then. I know it’s a bit of a risk with a pitcher but my philosophy is no risk no reward. Ask yourself where this team would be without Nola

    • Czontixhldr

      January 12, 2019 at 10:41 am

      Craig, here is a potential hurdle if you try to lock him up that long:

      Unless it’s a very high AAV (not team friendly), Nola is probably going to want an opt out, just like Kershaw got, so it will be a very hard deal to get done, and you wouldn’t really have him locked up that long.

      It’s tricky, but I agree with your point of trying to lock up some of the FA years to have cost certainty.

      In the end, Nola has to want to.

  4. Ken Bland

    January 12, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    This is a devil’s advocate statement that is just one example of the risk of a long term pitching deal, and in no way am I suggesting the extent to which this might be an apples to apples comparison.

    Jim Merritt, pitcher Reds, age 26 season, 21-12, slightly over 4 ERA in his 6th MLB year in 1970 for the Reds. 1 win the next year, 1 a year later, and 5 the next, out of baseball by age 31.

    From memory, Jim Bouton was a early phenom, 21 wins in ’64, no doubt numerous other examples.

    Does that mean no lengthy deal for Nola? Nope. But it means apply some practical judgement. Is he even worth length now? Certainly. You don’t want to hassle with him for another 2-3 years. Lock him up, buying maybe a year or two of his free agency. VERY rare is the great pitcher that you want to overload on, and Nola’s a full season away from even being considered a possibility of fitting that description.

    Phils are gonna get big time burned if they submit 4 mil. That bid, they better hope they don’t go to arbitration.

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