CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Aaron Nola spoke softly about his four-year, $45 million contract extension on Thursday morning at a news conference at Spectrum Field.
It is the only way he knows how. In fact, Nola said he broke the news about his life-changing contract to his parents over the phone in the same measured tones that everybody recognizes, if they have ever heard Nola speak on TV or the radio. Of course, Nola's parents, A.J. and Stacie Nola, reacted a little bit differently. They reacted like proud parents. They screamed.
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"Oh, man," Nola said in front of reporters, teammates and Phillies officials. "This is pretty surreal. This is pretty special for me."
This is how quickly things change, too. The Phillies and Nola had been headed to a salary arbitration hearing, with Philadelphia offering $4.5 million and Nola seeking $6.75 million. But after Nola rejected overtures to contract extensions last spring and again last summer, sometime within the past couple weeks he told his agent Joe Longo that he would be interested in signing a multiyear contract with the Phillies, who initiated talks for the third time.
The contract buys out Nola's three years of salary arbitration, plus his first year of free agency. He will make $4 million this season, plus a $2 million signing bonus. He will make $8 million in 2020, $11.75 million in 2021 and $15 million in 2022. A 2023 club option, which would buy out a second year of free agency, is worth $16 million with a $4.25 million buyout.
Nola will be 30 when he hits free agency, if the Phillies exercise the club option.
"Aaron felt comfortable in the four-year range because that puts him at 29 or 30, if they pick up the option," Longo said. "Hopefully it works out great and he's here longer than that. It was important to him to make sure that team is winning at that time."
It looks like a club-friendly deal. Nola could have scored big in arbitration on Thursday, if he had not agreed to an extension. He could have continued to score big down the road, too. But then Nola has battled elbow issues in the past. Now he has security.
"It just felt right for me at this time," Nola said. "I don't play specifically for the money. I play for the love of the game. I play for my teammates. I'm not just here to play for the money. I'm here to win."
Nola went 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA in 33 starts last season, finishing third for the National League Cy Young Award. He ranked second in the NL in ERA, opponents' OPS (.570) and barrels per plate appearance (3.0 percent); third in innings (212 1/3) and wOBA (.251); fourth in wins and FIP (2.97); fifth in strikeouts (224) and opponents' batting average (.197); sixth in average exit velocity (85.9) and eighth in hard-hit percentage (31.0 percent).
He also finished with a 10.5 pitching WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Mets ace Jacob deGrom finished second (9.6).