clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Does the Yankees signing Carlos Rodon affect Aaron Nola?

It sure as heck does.

MLB: NLDS-Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Yankees agreed to a six-year deal with Carlos Rodon, the final pitcher on the free agent market that is likely to command that kind of money and commitment from any team this offseason. There will be other deals for other pitchers, but Rodon was probably the last guy that will be getting a nine figure deal from anyone. So now, with his putting signature to paper, we know what the market is for the upper echelon of pitchers in the game. Without even looking at it, you probably will get a sense of sticker shock, but it shouldn’t be. Even in today’s age of hard throwing relievers that are soaking up more and more innings in a game, there is still a basic need for good, top of the rotation starting pitching. Each team is trying to develop it since it usually leads to not only regular season success, but also postseason success as well. We need not look past this postseason to see what having good starting pitching can do to shape a series narrative.

Going into contract mode, we can look at Spotrac and figure out what the top ten salaries are for starting pitchers per AAV since that’s the part that teams worry about so much with regards to the luxury tax*:

  1. Max Scherzer - $43.3M
  2. Justin Verlander - $43.3M
  3. Jacob deGrom - $37M
  4. Gerrit Cole - $36M
  5. Stephen Strasburg - $35M
  6. Shohei Ohtani - $30M
  7. Chris Sale - $29M
  8. Carlos Rodon - $27M
  9. Marcus Stroman - $23.67M
  10. Zack Wheeler - $23.6M

*Trevor Bauer is technically 6th here at $34M, but for obvious reasons, he’s not included

The names in italics are the contracts that were agreed to this offseason, Ohtani being an arbitration settlement before he hits free agency next season. The thing we can determine from this list is that if you are an elite starting pitcher, you will be rewarded handsomely in the free agent market. Many of these pitchers have shown that they can maintain their ability over many innings pitched, which is the reason they were in such demand. There are injuries that happen that lead to buyer’s remorse (looking at you, Stephen), but by and large, the teams have been given no reason not to feel as though they have gotten their money’s worth.

How does this apply to the Phillies? After all, everything has to come full circle to them and believe it or not, the signing of Carlos Rodon does have something to do with them. Even if they were still trying to add to their roster via the free agent market, the focus for Phillies fans now shifts away from there and to their own roster. The deal that was just given to Rodon will probably have a direct impact on the negotiations between the team and Aaron Nola, set to become a free agent after 2023. If they aren’t having negotiations, the time has come to start them, but to what end? What does a good deal look like for Nola to get beyond this coming season?

Let’s briefly look at a table comparing these pitchers. Below is a list of those same ten pitchers, listed by fWAR, including Nola from 2018-2022.

Top 10 SP by AAV, 2018-2022

Jacob deGrom 37 25 102 102 645.1 12.22 1.77 0.71 0.10 2.05 2.14 25.6
Max Scherzer 60 27 125 125 785.0 11.97 1.91 1.00 0.11 2.66 2.74 25.5
Gerrit Cole 71 29 140 140 867.2 12.41 2.28 1.23 0.15 3.00 3.01 23.2
Zack Wheeler 53 34 129 129 815.0 9.24 2.22 0.75 0.10 3.20 3.06 22.1
Aaron Nola 54 40 143 143 871.2 10.40 2.36 1.01 0.13 3.47 3.24 21.6
Justin Verlander 56 19 97 97 618.0 11.39 1.59 1.14 0.12 2.33 2.90 19.1
Carlos Rodon 36 25 86 84 473.2 10.72 3.10 0.86 0.09 3.33 3.19 13.1
Chris Sale 23 17 63 63 353.2 13.03 2.14 1.04 0.15 3.21 2.78 10.8
Marcus Stroman 30 42 109 109 604.1 7.64 2.59 0.89 0.13 3.62 3.69 10.6
Shohei Ohtani 28 14 63 63 349.2 11.35 3.04 0.90 0.11 2.96 3.04 9.6
Stephen Strasburg 29 17 63 63 370.1 10.57 2.70 1.17 0.16 3.77 3.59 8.0

As you can see, by fWAR at least, Nola stacks up rather well, finding himself in the middle of the pack. The problem with this table is that it’s missing some context. We know that WAR is a counting statistic, which becomes a problem when you aren’t available to accumulate WAR for your team. Of the pitchers on this list:

  • Three have missed a lot of time due to Tommy John surgery (Ohtani, Sale and Verlander)
  • One has missed multiple seasons due to other arm issues (Strasburg)
  • One has missed a ton of starts with various injuries, but when he’s on the hill, he’s dominant (deGrom)
  • One has missed almost an entire season thanks to shoulder issues (Rodon)

These types of plagues and maladies are the one that have held back their ability to be on the mound, thus allowing Nola to entire this discussion at all. Still, it’s a testament to Nola that he has been been injury free (for the most part) during these five seasons and has been able to give the Phillies top flight pitching. Just looking back at that table again, you might have noticed that Nola has had the most starts (143) and the most innings (871 23 ) during that time. This is a thing that teams would certainly put a high value on.

So you might think it isn’t that fair to use that large a timeframe to compare pitchers. Alright then, let’s just talk about the past two seasons since we don’t want to include any of those Covid year hijinks in there.

Top 10 SP by AAV, 2021-2022

Zack Wheeler 26 17 58 58 366.1 10.07 1.97 0.71 10.4% 2.80 2.71 11.3
Carlos Rodon 27 13 55 55 310.2 12.23 2.55 0.72 7.8% 2.67 2.42 11.1
Aaron Nola 20 22 64 64 385.2 10.69 1.59 1.05 11.7% 3.90 2.95 10.7
Max Scherzer 26 9 53 53 324.2 11.34 1.66 1 9.7% 2.38 2.81 9.8
Shohei Ohtani 24 11 51 51 296.1 11.39 2.67 0.88 11.0% 2.70 2.89 8.6
Gerrit Cole 29 16 63 63 382.0 11.78 2.14 1.34 15.2% 3.37 3.21 8.5
Jacob deGrom 12 6 26 26 156.1 14.28 1.09 0.86 12.8% 1.90 1.60 7.1
Justin Verlander 18 4 28 28 175.0 9.51 1.49 0.62 6.2% 1.75 2.49 6.1
Marcus Stroman 16 20 58 58 317.2 7.85 2.27 0.93 13.3% 3.23 3.61 5.4
Chris Sale 5 2 11 11 48.1 10.61 2.42 1.12 15.4% 3.17 3.54 1.0
Stephen Strasburg 1 3 6 6 26.1 8.89 5.47 1.71 18.5% 6.15 5.70 0.0

Using just the past two years, Nola actually fares much better than the pack. Sure, someone like Verlander is going to drop since he missed all of 2021 with Tommy John surgery (as well as Sale and Strasburg), but again, that goes back to the point in Nola’s favor. Generally speaking, he’s on the mound every fifth day and when he is, he’s among the game’s elite starting pitchers.

For some reason, there is a group of people that wish Nola moved to another team. Dig up any article either from this place or another and you’ll find a subset of people discussing how Nola isn’t this or Nola isn’t that. In some ways, it was fair to criticize parts of his game. The biggest one that people were quick to judge on were his performances in the games that mattered, the ones in September. The perception of Nola’s wilting any time a big game in that month needed to be won was strong and not without merit, at least anecdotally.

This September should have buried there.

Maybe there was a group of people that now wish to discuss his shortcomings during the NLCS and World Series. Fair, as that seems to be something that comes with the territory of those pitchers we consider to be the best of the best (coughVerlandercough). But to not at least acknowledge the fact that he had thrown the most innings of his professional career last season and to not give him at least some benefit of the doubt for that feels like it’s shorting him a bit.

So what will it cost the team to keep him around? That is probably the biggest question internally for the team that they have yet to answer. They could have fit Rodon’s eventual contract under this current budget, but they would have lost several draft picks and international bonus money in the process. One also has to wonder if Nola’s impending free agency had something to do with the decision to not pursue Rodon as well. Then there is the case of the three baby pitchers. Do they see Andrew Painter’s, Mick Abel’s and Griff McGarry’s progression as reason to maybe not spend as much money on someone with as many innings as Nola has on his right arm, banking that one of them will be able to replace his production at a mere fraction of the cost? That seems like a dangerous game to play.

Were the team looking to extend him now, Rodon’s contract probably just became the floor at which they can enter negotiations. Nola is six months younger, so that’s probably a wash. He has much more mileage on his odometer than Rodon, but that can also be warped to be a point in his favor. He’s shown himself to be one of the more durable starting pitchers in the game and should be rewarded as such.

We don’t know what the eventual outcome will be. The team will probably have an answer soon, but should he give them another season like the ones he’s had the past two seasons, it’ll only cost them more money. The smart thing would be to lock him up now if that is the route they are choosing to go. If they aren’t...

...boy I hope they know what they’re doing.