New York Mets fans have gotten to see Aaron Nola plenty over the years. Representing the Philadelphia Phillies, he made lots of trips to Citi Field and had his share of hosting duties down in Philadelphia.
Nola will go into free agency this offseason as one of the better available arms for the Mets to sign. Is he the right match for what they're looking for?
As with any free agent, there are parts to love and others to hate. Nola has his share of each. These are the two biggest.
Aaron Nola is going to save bullpens from getting exposed
If there's one thing Nola does well it's eat innings. A rarity in today’s game, he has three seasons of topping 200 innings and two more where he was at 180 or more. He would have surely gotten to the 200 mark if not for having two of his weaker seasons where leaving him in the game a little longer wasn’t the wisest of decisions.
Starting pitchers who stay healthy and go deep into games have been mostly absent from the Mets in recent years. Their last starter to reach 200 innings in a year was Jacob deGrom in 2019.
In terms of durability, the Mets won’t find too many better options than Nola. He has made 32 starts in each of the last three seasons and hasn’t missed much time throughout his big league career.
Aaron Nola disappears in September
Nola isn't a complete one year off, one year on type of pitcher. Some seasons have been more in the middle. The variation in results is one of the reasons why the Phillies weren't able to come to an agreement. It's tough to commit to a guy who could be in the Cy Young conversation one season and then look average without much of a warning.
Where there have been warnings of a collapse is in September. In the final month of the regular season (this includes any October starts he may have made) Nola is 11-17 with a 4.39 ERA. It’s the only month of his MLB career with a losing record and includes his highest ERA by a slight margin over the 4.37 in June where he at least has gone 15-10.
Is a track record of performing poorly in the final month of the regular season enough for the Mets to stay away? Because he has done well in the playoffs with a 5-3 record and 3.70 ERA, it’s not as if Nola is completely cooked by the last month of the season. Interestingly, he was very good for the Phillies in this year’s playoffs and yet his September included 5 starts, a 0-1 record, and 5.47 ERA. Philadelphia did win each of those no-decisions so it wasn’t a huge deal.
Should the Mets make Nola a priority? One trend in his career is finishing in the top 10 of the Cy Young in even-numbered years. If you can live with the bad times with Nola, any team can benefit from the good ones. He did receive a qualifying offer from the Phillies which would result in the loss of a draft pick if the Mets did go after him. This could be one reason why the Mets ultimately stay away regardless of how much faith they could have in him.