2. Yankees-Phillies Trade: Aaron Nola
We’re doing it! We’re pulling off the Zack Wheeler trade the Yankees have failed to orchestrate no less than six full times since 2019!
Nah, just kidding. But that would be helpful, especially since the Yanks have been lacking a defined No. 2 since right around the same time they passed on importing Wheeler during Gerrit Cole’s offseason. So, what about Philly’s other ace? The more inconsistent and less expensive (though still somewhat expensive) one?
If “kicking our ass” was a primary trade motivator, then Aaron Nola would already be on the Jersey Turnpike heading to the Bronx. In three starts against the Yankees career, Nola is 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA and 26 whiffs in 19 innings. In a much larger sample size against the crosstown Mets, he’s 9-3 with a 3.12 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 115.1 innings pitched.
We could get into that.
Nola’s currently tied to Philadelphia’s payroll on a pre-arbitration extension that locks him in for $15 million in 2022, up from $11.75 million last season (a very Rays-esque way to structure a long-term deal). He’s also got a team option good for $16 million in 2023, which will presumably be picked up if a Nola trade turns out the way we hope it would.
The whiff numbers were once again there for Nola in 2021, as was the dependability (223 Ks in 180.1 innings pitched), neither of which matched the ERA (4.63). All of his Statcast metrics (xWOBA, hard-hit percentage, K percentage, BB percentage) are upper-echelon; only his average exit velocity lagged in any way last season, slipping slightly into the bottom half of all eligible pitchers.
Nola looks like a clear No. 2 who ran into some bad luck last season, a charge the Yankees could give him ample opportunity to bounce back from next year. Maybe this is how Brian Cashman clears up his infield logjam with a Gleyber Torres trade, as long as he’s able to get permission to extend his payroll?