Aaron Nola is arguably the most coveted starting pitcher set to hit free agency. He’s coming off a poor year for his lofty standards, posting a 4.46 ERA. However, his value shined in the postseason, and he has three top seven finishes in the NL Cy Young race since 2018. Nola is elite, and the Braves have a couple of gaping holes in their rotation, which is why Zachary D. Rymer of Bleacher Report sees them as a top landing spot for Nola this offseason.
2023 Starting Pitching WAR: 10.0 (12th)
2024 Projected Rotation: RHP Spencer Strider, LHP Max Fried, RHP Charlie Morton, RHP Bryce Elder, RHP AJ Smith-Shawver
The rivalry between Atlanta and the Phillies is already spicy, but what better way to make it spicier than a defection on Nola’s part?
For Atlanta, enriching themselves while denying the enemy would be a mere bonus if they were to sign Nola. A more basic reality is that their starting rotation needs fortification after how it ended 2023, posting a 5.10 ERA in the second half of the year.
The real question is this: Can Atlanta afford Nola?
It’s perhaps unlikely, given that the organization has never gone aboveeven $76 million for a free agent and that its long-term books are already heavy with six contracts that run through at least 2028. But if the club doesn’t simply go for broke, they could clear $20 million for 2024 by choosing to decline their option on Morton, who turns 40 on Nov. 12.
Aaron Nola would be a dream for the Braves, stabilizing the rotation for years to come. However, there are a couple of reasons it’s difficult to imagine this actually happening.
The first being Rymer’s point. Will the Braves go out and spend on a top of the market free agent? They’ve yet to do so with Alex Anthopoulos as their GM, but I do expect them to do it eventually. I just don’t know if it will be for Aaron Nola.
The second reason is the Braves are going to have to outbid the Phillies and convince Nola to come play for a division rival. Philadelphia has infinitely more spending power than the Braves, and they do want to keep Nola. They will likely be willing to match any offer the Braves make, who will not overpay, and if the deals are similar, I highly doubt Nola will skip town and head to a division rival.
Of all the starting pitchers available, Aaron Nola is the best fit, and it does make some sense given the Braves needs. Unfortunately, there seem to be too many factors working against the Braves for this to come to fruition.
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