Aaron Nola Says Comfort and Familiarity with Philadelphia was More Important than Money
Aaron Nola wanted to stay in Philadelphia because it felt like family. The Phillies wanted to keep Aaron Nola because they feel he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.
But if you asked either side, neither were confident they would come to an agreement on a new deal.
Nola went home after the Phillies lost Game 7 of the NLCS and gazed out over Center City from his high-rise condo and thought that this might be the end.
Dave Dombrowski gathered his executive team and started to put a few plan Bs in place, in case it didn’t work out.
Nola said a couple days after the Game 7 loss, he cleaned out his entire locker at Citizens Bank Park. It’s something he had never done before, always leaving some stuff there for the following Spring.
Dombrowski said he knew other teams were interested in Nola. He admitted the Atlanta Braves were one of them but there were “many” others.
While there was a waiting game taking place, Nola kept reminding his agents that if the number was fair, he would prefer to stay in Philadelphia. The Phillies met with Nola’s representatives at the GM meetings last week. They told them to stay in touch as new offers came in so the Phillies would have an opportunity to counter.
And once the Braves got involved, the Phillies stopped tiptoeing around and shoved a big old pile of loot at Nola.
Seven years. $172 million:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 20, 2023
He could have gotten more elsewhere. But being a part of something special in Philadelphia was more important to him and his pregnant wife Hunter.
“If you’re going to spend the next seven years somewhere, you really want to enjoy it,” Nola said after the conclusion of his press conference Monday. “That’s why it was important to us to not run after the highest dollar because that doesn’t trump comfortability and a place that you really enjoy and want to raise a family.”
Philadelphia means a lot to Nola. So much so that he said it would be really cool to play his entire career for one team in an era where that is very rare. He knows that there’s a chance that, if he pitches every year of this contract with the Phillies that he has a chance to be an all-time Phillies great.
If he’s still pitching in 2030, at the age of 37, he will be the longest-tenured pitcher in franchise history and the only player with a longer Phillies career would be Mike Schmidt.
He likely would break or be second to only Steve Carlton in every career statistical category in Phillies history:
CELEBRATORY AARON NOLA FACTS DANCE!!! pic.twitter.com/w2fGAdI9wE
— Ellen Adair (@ellen_adair) November 19, 2023
He admitted it’s cool to think about that, but he also knows there is more to it than just his name in franchise record books. Nola is driven to finish what he started and bring a World Series crown back to Philadelphia.
The Phillies believe he can. Which is why Dombrowski was so quick to get it done once he realized some chief competition was starting to flirt.
“It was most important that we kept him for ourselves, but we sure didn’t want him in Atlanta either,” Dombrowski said. “There were other clubs that were interested too, but we certainly wouldn’t have looked forward to facing a pitcher of his ilk by any means.”
The Braves involvement likely sped up the process. Nola said he was motivated to get a deal done quickly, especially since he and Hunter are expecting a baby soon and they wanted some certainty beforehand.
Once the Phillies saw it was time for the rubber to meet the road, they pushed for longer length and more money than they were willing to give just nine months earlier.
I asked Dombrowski what changed in that time, especially with Nola having an uneven season overall in between.
“We really weren’t that close at the time for various reasons,” Dombrowski said. “And you really have to respect a player’s ability to see what free agency is like because they don’t get that opportunity often. But for us it came down to us having one of the best pitchers in baseball that really fits onto our ballclub. Sometimes, you just have to make compromises, right? Because that’s how the market plays. So, when you are in a position where there are clubs that are involved and people are talking, you have to go a certain length to do something. When you weigh the dollars and the length of the contract you talk about an individual as talented and as tremendous a pitcher (as Nola) who is reliable to go out there every five days and take the ball – we know the makeup of the individual.
“And you look at the aging process too and you are talking about an extremely hard worker. In fact, one of the things over the last couple of years (is) we have to stop Aaron from working too hard. We need to preserve him. If you notice, in September the last couple of years he’s pitched very, very well and of course into the postseason and that’s important. Combine that with some things he did late in the season with his delivery to hold runners and adjusting a little bit to the pitch clock, when you start putting all those things together, we want to win and we want to make it happen. Sometimes, (to do that), you have to compromise.”
Lots of smiles today at Citizens Bank Park today as the Phillies announce the re-signing of Aaron Nola. pic.twitter.com/GsZ3KhEK4g
— Tim Kelly (@TimKellySports) November 20, 2023
They compromised by adding two more years and about $52 million more in total salary. It was enough for Nola to turn down the Braves and other suitors.
It was enough for Nola and his wife to call Philadelphia home for at least the next seven years.
It was enough for the Phillies to land their No. 1 priority.
It was enough to keep him in the family.
And family, is what playing for the Phillies feels like for Nola – and that mattered more than anything else.