Ken Rosenthal and Matt Gelb of The Athletic report that the Phillies and pitcher Aaron Nola are “on the verge” of entering into a four-year, $45 million contract extension. There is likewise a club option for a fifth year.
Nola, who was about to head to an arbitration hearing in his first year of arbitration eligibility, went 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 224/58 in 212.1 innings last year, finishing third in the Cy Young balloting. This deal will buy out all three of his arb years and at least his first year of potential free agency. His second if the Phillies exercise the option.
It’s definitely a short-term bum for Nola. He was seeking a $6.75 million in arbitration while the Phillies were offering $4.5 million. If he were to continue on the course he’s been on, of course, he’d stand to make far more than the $11 million or so he’ll be averaging out to on the back end of this deal.
Such are the tradeoffs in signing a deal this early, of course. And, obviously, this was his choice, of course. Pitchers can get injured and 2018 could’ve been a fluke year, so entering into this deal gives him the sort of financial security he may not have otherwise had over the next 3-4 years. The Phillies, meanwhile, have their ace on lockdown at least through his age-29 season.
The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.
Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.
Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.
Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.