ESPN’s Jeff Passan says Braves “were a real threat” to land Aaron Nola

MLB: JUL 29 Phillies at Pirates

The first major signing took place early this afternoon when it was announced Aaron Nola will be returning to Philadelphia on a seven-year, $172 million deal.

Aaron Nola leaving Philadelphia for the Braves always felt like a long shot. However, Atlanta’s interest appeared to be genuine. Jeff Passan also said the Braves “were a real threat” to land Nola, but that the Phillies upped their offer because of their division rivals’ interest.

It is fairly common for agents to use other team’s interest in their client to get the best deal, and that seems to be what happened here; however, this is an intriguing nugget that suggests the Braves are indeed targeting a frontline arm this offseason and are willing to pay, something they haven’t done in the past.

With Nola off the market, expect the chase for the rest of the free agent starting pitchers to heat up. Who knows if the Braves would be willing to offer a similar contract to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell, or Jordan Montgomery, but Sonny Gray appears to be their plan B.

Gray is coming off the best season of his career, finishing second in the AL Cy Young race after recording a 2.79 ERA and league-leading 2.83 FIP. Since 2019, Gray has made 124 starts and owns a 3.22 ERA, 138 ERA+ (38% above league average), and 3.34 FIP. Those numbers are actually significantly better than Nola’s, but because of Gray’s age — he’s set to turn 34 next season — he will likely require half the commitment that the Phillies just showed Nola.

Things could change quickly now that the first domino has fallen, so stay tuned to SportsTalkATL for all the latest news and rumors regarding Atlanta Braves free agency.

Photo: Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire

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