AnalysisNL East

Should The Phillies Extend Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins?

With the 2023 Major League Baseball season quickly approaching, the Philadelphia Phillies have two decisions to make when it comes to their roster beyond this year.

Their two longest-tenured players, Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins, are both set to become free agents at the end of the season.

Nola is the longest-tenured member of the Phillies. He made his major league debut on July 21st, 2015 against the Tampa Bay Rays. He tossed 6 innings that night, giving up 1 run and striking out 6 batters. Nola surrendered the lone run by way of a solo home run by opposing pitcher Nate Karns.

Hoskins made his debut on August 10th, 2017. He would go on to set a new record for the most home runs hit in a player’s first 34 big league games with 18.

Both players were supposed to be crucial pieces of what felt like a never-ending rebuild in Philadelphia. While it took longer than expected to reach the postseason, the team finally did in 2022 en route to winning the National League and falling two wins short of winning the World Series.

Aaron Nola is the Phillies’ co-ace with Zack Wheeler. Rhys Hoskins has been a mainstay at first base for the last five seasons. As we approach the start of Spring Training next month, could the Phillies look to extend both Nola and Hoskins?

Let’s take a look at their careers so far and make a case for what to do about their expiring contracts.


Aaron Nola

Overview:

First up is the longest-tenured member of the 2022 N.L. champions, who has become a fan favorite to some in Philadelphia. Others have their issues with the veteran right-hander.

At times throughout his career, Nola has struggled late in seasons. Most notably, in 2019 his ERA in the month of September was 6.51 and in September 2021, he had a 6.19 ERA. Nola’s ERA was better in September 2018 (3.72), 2020 (3.57), and 2022 (2.36).

Another knock on Nola is how he can be inconsistent throughout some of his starts. It doesn’t happen all the time, but there have been outings over the course of his career where Nola looks sharp, and then he doesn’t. At times, he looks to be on cruise control as he carves his way through the opposing lineup, and then all of a sudden, he surrenders multiple runs in one inning, which ends up ruining his otherwise great start. Again, it isn’t a constant theme for Nola, but it does happen.

Also, some people will point out Nola’s struggles in his final three postseason starts of 2022. After two stellar outings against the Cardinals and Braves to start the playoffs, he looked un-Nola-like in the NLCS and World Series.

That could be due to fatigue, though. Including the regular season and playoffs, Nola pitched the most innings in the majors in 2022 at 230.2. Nola’s career high in innings before that was 212.1 in 2018, so it is possible he ran out of gas.

Although he has had some troubles as a big leaguer, there is plenty to like about the Louisiana-born righty.

Career Résumé:

Nola had a bounce-back year in 2022 after a not-so-great 2021 season, where he posted a 4.63 ERA in 180.2 innings. In 205.0 innings last year, he had a 3.25 ERA with 235 strikeouts.

He has been one of the better right-handed starting pitchers in the big leagues since he debuted in 2015.

In fact, over the last five seasons, Nola has arguably been a top-ten pitcher in the sport.

Since the start of 2018, Nola leads all big league pitchers with 871.2 innings pitched. Among starters who have logged 600 or more innings during that time period, his ERA (3.47) is 11th, strikeouts (1,007) are 3rd, WHIP (1.08) is 8th, and FIP (3.24) is 9th. Batters are hitting .220/.279/.362 against Nola in that span.

Not only is he one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, but he has also become one of the organization’s most successful pitchers. Among Phillies’ pitchers, Nola is 8th in career bWAR (29.9), 1st in K/9 (10.11), 7th in strikeouts (1,380), 8th in WHIP (1.125), and 10th in starts (203).

For most of his professional career, Nola has stayed healthy. The only major injury he has sustained since his big league debut was a right elbow strain in 2016.

Should he be offered an extension?

Yes, the Phillies should absolutely extend Aaron Nola.

As previously stated, he has become one of the game’s best starting pitchers and is one of the most successful pitchers in the history of the Phillies. There are some options the Phillies have if they don’t bring Nola back, but most of them aren’t better options than Nola himself.

Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suárez, and Taijuan Walker are all starters who are locked up beyond 2023. They also have three young pitching prospects in Andrew Painter, Griff McGarry, and Mick Abel sitting in their farm system.

Wheeler and Nola are in the same tier when it comes to starting pitchers, but the Phillies recent success has been because they have had two aces atop their starting rotation. None of their other internal options to replace Nola would be able to fill the role of co-ace.

What would an extension look like?

The Phillies and their first-round pick in the 2014 draft have come to terms on a contract extension during Spring Training before. In 2019, they signed the right-hander to a four-year, $45 million contract. There was a fifth-year club option in that deal that was picked up for the 2023 season in November.

With Nola’s success as a big-league starter and the recent price tag for starting pitchers, he will clearly get more than the $45 million he received four years ago.

Here is a list of some long-term contracts recently given to some of the game’s better starting pitchers:

PlayerTeamContract TermsAnnual Average Value
Carlos RodónNYY6 years, $162 million$27 million
José BerríosTOR7 years, $131 million$18.7 million
Robbie RaySEA5 years, $115 million$23 million
Kevin GausmanTOR5 years, $110 million$22 million
Luis CastilloSEA5 years, $108 million$21.6 million
Joe MusgroveSD5 years, $100 million$20 million

Nola’s next contract is most likely going to be for more than $100 million. When it comes to the annual average value, he could receive at least $25 million a year.

If the Phillies were to extend Nola this spring, which again they should, something in the area of a five-year contract for $125 to $140 million is likely going to be where negotiations begin.


Rhys Hoskins

Overview:

Going into this offseason, Rhys Hoskins was a very hot topic amongst Phillies fans. There were a number of fans who wanted to trade Hoskins. Others realized there wouldn’t be much the club could get in return for the first baseman, so there would be no reason to trade him. The rest of the fan base wasn’t in favor of letting Hoskins go because they understood he is a valuable piece to Philadelphia’s current roster.

Those who are frustrated with Hoskins state his inconsistency at the plate and less-than-ideal defense. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski touched on both of those points in his end-of-the-season media availability session.

In reference to Hoskins, Dombrowski stated, “But he’s not a Gold Glove first baseman, for example,” and, “He is also somewhat a streaky hitter. So when he’s going good, it’s great. And when it’s not going good, it’s not so good.”

That being said, Rhys Hoskins is still a productive player that any team should want on their roster.

Career Résumé:

Hoskins can hit for power, work counts, and draw walks.

In 2022, Hoskins slugged .462 with 33 doubles and 30 home runs. He saw 4.30 pitches per plate appearance, which was 3rd in the big leagues, while walking 10.7% of the time. Overall, he was an above-league-average hitter with a 122 OPS+.

Hoskins does strike out a lot, but that is not uncommon in today’s game. He had a 25.1% strikeout rate last year.

Since his debut on August 10th, 2017, Hoskins has been one of baseball’s most productive right-handed hitters. Hoskins is 3rd in home runs (148), 7th in doubles (149), 1st in walks (388), 6th in RBIs (405), 14th in hits (588), and 4th in plate appearances (2,876) among right-handed hitters over that stretch.

This is where he ranks in terms of percentiles in xSLG and walk rate dating back to 2018:

YearxSLG PercentileBB% Percentile
201872nd88th
201934th98th
202084th93rd
202193rd71st
202278th80th

Should he be offered an extension?

Whether or not the Phillies should look to give Hoskins a new, long-term contract is an interesting topic to explore.

Hitters as productive as Hoskins are hard to come by, and there are no real first base replacements currently in the Phillies’ organization.

Yes, Alec Bohm could make the move to first if Hoskins leaves, but he made significant strides as a third baseman in 2022. J.T. Realmuto has played first base before, but the Phillies just traded their top catching prospect last summer, so it is unlikely they would move him from behind the plate. Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos would both likely be out of place playing first base, and neither are solid defenders to begin with. Darick Hall doesn’t currently profile as an everyday first baseman.

The free agent and trade markets for first baseman next offseason likely won’t be appealing, either.

With no real internal replacements and an unappealing external market, the Phillies should look to keep Hoskins in Philadelphia beyond 2023.

What would an extension look like?

Here is a list of recent contracts signed by first baseman:

PlayerTeamContract TermsAnnual Average Value
Matt OlsonATL8 years, $168 million$21 million
Freddie FreemanLAD6 years, $162 million$27 million
José AbreuHOU3 years, $58.5 million$19.5 million
Anthony RizzoNYY2 years, $40 million$20 million
Josh BellCLE2 years, $33 million$16.5 million

Looking at these numbers, it is safe to say Hoskins is likely to get a deal in the range of $18 to $22 million a year. In terms of length, given Hoskins’ current age (2023 will be his age 30 season), his next contract could be for four to six years.

The Phillies tendered Hoskins a contract for 2023. He could accept that contract, go to arbitration, or come to terms on a contract extension with the club.

If the Phillies and Hoskins wanted to work on the terms of a contract extension, a five-year deal worth $90 to $110 million could work for both sides.


Conclusion

Once upon a time, Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins were young players that many hoped would be at the center of the Phillies’ future while helping them get back to the postseason. It took longer than expected, but when the Phillies were finally able to play playoff baseball again, both of them were major contributors.

Nola was at the top of Philadelphia’s rotation in 2022 and Hoskins was one of their more important hitters.

Both are currently slated to become free agents after the upcoming season, and the question of whether or not they should receive contract extensions this spring is starting to be asked.

Nobody in the organization is going to be able to replace the quality innings Nola has provided over the years. Hitters like Hoskins are very difficult to find. The Phillies should extend both Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins as soon as possible.


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Featured Photo: Twitter / @Phillies

Bailey Digh

As a life long baseball fan, I enjoy not only watching and writing about my favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies, but also like writing about the game as a whole.

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