Nola will receive a $2 million signing bonus this year to go with his $4 million salary. It escalates to $8 million in 2020, $11.75 million in 2021 and $15 million in 2022. There is a team option of $16 million 2022 with a $4.25 million buyout. With the option, the deal covers two years of Nola’s free agency.
The contract will be worth a minimum of $45 million over four years. Nola will be a 31-year-old free agent if the Phillies pick up the option.
Nola tossed 212.1 innings at a 2.37 ERA last season, finishing third in Cy Young voting behind Max Scherzer and a historic campaign from Jacob deGrom. A 0.97 WHIP was one of the best in the league. Nola broke through after a solid 2017 to earn a place as one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball right now.
Of course, this is only one good season. Despite being a highly rated prospect, there’s a possibility he regresses. The numbers would suggest otherwise, however. Nola was in the 81st percentile in hard hit rate, 88th in exit velocity and 76th in strikeout rate.
He has four good pitches, including a curveball that had just a .180 xwOBA. He throws the curve just under 31% of the time for an over 40% whiff rate. It’s his strikeout pitch and he’s capable of throwing it to batters on either side of the plate.
Having been a sinker-dominant guy, Nola leaned on four-seamer in 2018. The sinker became his fourth pitch, getting a lot of soft contact for a .193 xBA.
Nola has ace stuff. Only four pitchers threw more innings in 2018. He’s heading into his age-26 season as a genuine Cy Young candidate.
Philadelphia’s desire to spend heavily has been well-documented but retaining Nola through his prime at this price is one of the best moves this offseason.
It was a surprise to see the right-hander settle for this deal without taking him further in his thirties. Being a free agent at 31 is not ideal unless Nola shows no signs of decline before his deal expires. For the Phillies, though, it is perfect, keeping Nola through his best years without the inflated expenditure of acquiring a free agent.
J.A. Happ received two years and $34 million this offseason. Happ has the reputation and track record, but he is a mid-three ERA guy at best. Patrick Corbin, like Nola, had a breakout 2018 and landed a six-year $140 million contract with the Nationals. Washington will be paying him over $30 million in his mid-thirties.
Philadelphia still have work to do before Opening Day. This extension does not necessarily benefit them this season, but it provides long-term security atop the rotation and that is invaluable.
The Phillies have kept their ace through his best years without the risk of paying him heavily as a 35-year-old. We may well see more of these deals as a result of the difficulties players have suffered in free agency, but few will be as good value as this could be.