Nola shows love for Philly: 'Most comfortable place for me'

Free agent RHP re-signs with Phillies on seven-year, $172M contract

November 20th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- After every one of his first eight seasons with the Phillies, emptied almost everything from his locker at Citizens Bank Park.

He said he always kept a few things because he always knew he would be back. But following his ninth season this year, following the Phillies’ loss to Arizona in Game 7 of the NLCS, Nola cleared out everything. He knew then he might never return as a member of the Phillies, becoming a free agent for the first time.

Anything could happen at that point. A team could blow away the Phillies with a monstrous offer. The Phillies could try to squeeze him for too much of a home-team discount, leaving him with no choice but to sign elsewhere.

“I wasn’t with Philly anymore, technically, and that was kind of different,” Nola said Monday afternoon, following the announcement that he signed a seven-year, $172 million contract to stay in Philly through 2030. “It was hard that night we lost. I went back home, just thinking about all the memories and stuff, it kind of rolled through my head. Looking at the city, I looked out the window and I was like, ‘Gosh, we might not be here.’ That’s the reality.”

But the Phillies and Nola got what they wanted. Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he “wasn’t confident” they would re-sign Nola, but he always said he was their No. 1 offseason priority. They considered him an elite pitcher. Durable. Reliable. They absolutely love him as a person. They felt they needed him back to give themselves the best chance to win a World Series.

“It was most important that we kept him for ourselves, but I sure wouldn't have wanted him to go to Atlanta either,” Dombrowski said. “Somebody that's in your own division. There were other clubs that were interested in him, too. There were a lot of them. We would not look forward to facing a pitcher of his ilk against us by any means.”

Nola said he wanted to come back because he wants to finish the job. He wants to help the Phillies win a World Series.

“The past two years, we’ve gotten pretty close,” he said. “We obviously have the team to do it. To make that next step is obviously my goal, it’s everybody in that clubhouse’s goal. That was a big reason that I came back. There’s nothing like playoff baseball, especially in this town. It’s really addicting to be out there and play in front of this crowd. I think I’m speaking for everybody in our clubhouse: We just want to win it for this city and win it for this organization.”

Plus, Philly is home to the Nolas.

“This is the most comfortable place for me,” he said. “Everybody in this organization is so good and has been so committed to winning and committed to the players. The relationships that I've made, that's going to last a lifetime, and I feel like it would be hard to get away from those people.”

Nola took some meetings with some teams, which was part of the free-agent process.

It was different, he said.

But Nola made it clear to his agents that he wanted to return to Philly. He did not need the Phillies to make the biggest offer. They just needed to make a fair one, considering the market. Nola could have signed elsewhere for more money.

Nola will probably finish his career in Philly now. He might finish it as one of the top three or four pitchers in Phillies history.

Nola, 30, will be 37 when he finishes his 16th season with the Phillies in 2030. If he pitches at least one game in each of the next seven years, only Mike Schmidt will have played more seasons in Philadelphia. He played 18 (1972-89). No one has pitched more seasons for the Phillies than Steve Carlton (15, 1972-86).

“Spending my whole career with one team, yeah, that’s pretty special to do,” Nola said.

He ranks 19th among Phillies players with 31.7 bWAR. Robin Roberts (72.0), Carlton (69.4), Grover Cleveland Alexander (61.3), Cole Hamels (43.0) and Curt Schilling (36.3) are the only pitchers ahead of Nola.

He should pass Hamels and Schilling easily.

Maybe Nola also runs down a Hall of Famer or two. He will have to stay healthy. He will have to remain effective. The Phillies and Nola think he will be, although any multiyear contract for any pitcher in his 30s carries risk.

“I hope I age well, for sure,” Nola said. “I’m going to do everything that I can to stay durable and take the ball every time they ask me to.”

Nola said he sees pitchers like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Charlie Morton as proof it can be done. The Phillies see no reason why Nola can’t be like them.

“It starts with his work ethic and his dedication and the desire to be great for a long time,” Phillies general manager Sam Fuld said. “When you start with these things, you have to start with the makeup. I don’t know if anybody in the game has better makeup than Aaron Nola.”