In short, Aaron Nola has emerged as an elite MLB pitcher but his salary does not yet reflect his standing among the top arms in baseball. Nola‘s current 4-year, $45 million contract pays him an average of $11.25 million per year. This places him just outside the top 10 highest paid pitchers.
While pitchers like Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, and newcomer Kevin Gausman earn $20+ million annually, Nola‘s salary pales slightly in comparison. However, with free agency looming after 2023, Nola is poised for a massive payday that will compensate him appropriately as a pitching superstar.
Now let‘s dive deeper into the full breakdown of how Aaron Nola‘s salary progression and contract details stack up in today‘s MLB pitching market.
Aaron Nola‘s Background and Rise to Phillies Ace
Before analyzing the dollars and cents, it‘s worth reviewing Aaron Nola‘s path to becoming one of MLB‘s premier starters…
Nola was drafted 7th overall by the Phillies in 2014 after a stellar college career at LSU. He reached the big leagues just a year later in 2015, showing promise by posting a 3.59 ERA and striking out nearly a batter per inning across his first 12 starts.
Over Nola‘s first few seasons, he displayed steady improvement punctuated by flashes of brilliance. His 2017 campaign truly put him on the map, with a 3.54 ERA and 184 strikeouts over 168 innings, earning Nola his first All-Star selection.
From 2018 through 2021, Nola cemented himself as a top-tier arm. He averaged 33 starts, 200+ strikeouts, a 3.37 ERA, and 6.2 WAR per season during that four year stretch.
Advanced metrics like FIP and xERA also demonstrate Nola‘s dominance, consistently ranking him among the MLB‘s best pitchers. He placed as high as 7th in Cy Young voting in 2018 on the back of a 2.37 ERA that led the National League.
Now in 2022 and 2023, Nola is the undisputed ace of a playoff-contending Phillies staff. At age 29, he‘s squarely in his pitching prime. With free agency looming, Nola has proven his worth as an elite arm worthy of a top salary.
Nola‘s Salary Progression to $11.25 Million Per Year
Early on, Nola‘s earnings matched his initial role as a promising young starter:
- 2015 (rookie season): $207,000
- 2016: $500,000
- 2017: $1.5 million
A breakout 2018 campaign caused his salary to jump to $9 million and established Nola as a core piece for Philadelphia.
In February 2019, on the heels of three excellent seasons, the Phillies invested in Nola long-term with a 4-year, $45 million extension carrying him through 2023.
This contract averages out to $11.25 million per year, with additional performance incentives potentially boosting the total value to $56.75 million.
Nola‘s $11.25 million annual salary signifies his rise towards the top of the MLB pitcher salary hierarchy. But it still leaves room for even greater future compensation.
How Nola Ranks Among Highest Paid MLB Pitchers
While firmly in eight-figure territory, Nola‘s $11.25 million yearly paycheck ranks just outside the top 10 MLB pitcher salaries:
|Rank||Player||Team||Average Annual Salary|
|1||Max Scherzer||NYM||$43.3 million|
|2||Gerrit Cole||NYY||$36 million|
|3||Justin Verlander||HOU||$33 million|
|4||Trevor Bauer||LAD||$32 million|
|5||David Price||LAD||$32 million|
|6||Stephen Strasburg||WAS||$30 million|
|7||Clayton Kershaw||LAD||$30 million|
|8||Chris Sale||BOS||$26.5 million|
|9||Zack Greinke||ARI||$25.9 million|
|10||Kevin Gausman||TOR||$21 million|
|11||Robbie Ray||SEA||$20 million|
|12||Aaron Nola||PHI||$11.25 million|
At a similar age and career stage, Kevin Gausman presents one of the best comparisons for Nola in both performance and salary. Gausman recently landed a 5-year, $110 million deal with the Blue Jays, upping his yearly earnings to $22 million.
While right in the mix, Nola still falls just short of the salaries commanded by true aces like Cole, Scherzer, Verlander. However, a blockbuster contract looms if he reaches free agency after 2023.
How Does Nola Stack Up in Value and Performance?
Based purely on the numbers, Nola has a case as one of MLB‘s most valuable arms relative to his current salary.
Since 2018, he ranks 9th among qualified starters in ERA (3.37), 8th in Fielding Independent Pitching (3.39), and 7th in WAR (18.7). Nola also sports an excellent 1.101 WHIP over that five year stretch.
Plus, Nola has proven to be an innings eater and rotation workhorse. He surpassed 200 innings pitched in 2018 and 2019, and has averaged 32 starts over the past five seasons.
In terms of performance vs. salary, Nola delivers tremendous bang for the buck, outproducing more expensive arms like Chris Sale ($26.5 million) and Trevor Bauer ($32 million).
While underpaid based on his output, Nola‘s next contract should elevate his earnings more in line with his elite peers.
How Aaron Nola‘s Next Contract Could Pay Him Among MLB‘s Best
All signs point towards Nola opting out of his contract and testing free agency after 2023. When that happens, he‘ll be poised to land one of the richest deals ever for an MLB pitcher.
Most projections have Nola inking a contract along these lines:
- Length: At least 5 years
- Total Value: $130-$160 million
- Average Annual Salary: $26-$32 million
A contract in this range would vault Nola into the top 5 highest paid pitchers, likely only trailing Scherzer, Cole, Verlander, and recent free agent signee Kevin Gausman.
At 29 years old, Nola appeals to teams as a durable arm still in his prime with relatively low mileage. His combination of age, track record, and ace-level performance should spark an intense bidding war for his services.
While the Phillies will make every effort to re-sign their homegrown star, Nola will have no shortage of big market suitors like the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets or Giants.
Ultimately his next contract will almost surely guarantee him over $25 million per year, with massive incentives potentially pushing the total value north of $200 million.
The Bottom Line on Aaron Nola‘s Salary
While already well-compensated at $11.25 million per year, Aaron Nola still has room to grow his salary into the upper stratosphere of MLB pitcher earnings.
He possesses a strong case as one of the most underpaid arms based on his sterling stats and consistency. Nola‘s next contract should rectify that situation.
Once he reaches free agency after 2023, expect bidding for Nola‘s services to be fierce. A salary in excess of $30 million annually is well within reach as teams will pay dearly for his frontline production.
So while Nola‘s current deal is lucrative, it could soon pale in comparison to the megadeal he‘s projected to land. In short order, Aaron Nola‘s salary should rocket to the level of MLB‘s true elite.