Dodgers' weakened approach to free agency likely cost them Aaron Nola

Sometimes, you have to overpay. Even if it scares you.
Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

Per reports, the Los Angeles Dodgers were willing to make Aaron Nola the highest-paid free agent pitcher in franchise history. But then the Philadelphia Phillies swiftly ended the proceedings by locking up the right-hander on a seven-year, $172 million contract.

Though Clayton Kershaw has earned the most of any Dodgers pitcher ever, he was never pursued as a free agent for those big contracts. LA was smart enough to get the deals done before he hit the open market.

With so many names available this offseason, it'll be important for Andrew Friedman to officially rid the organization of the Trevor Bauer stink, who remains the franchise's highest-paid free agent pitcher at $102 million (the only pitcher that's gotten more than $50 million guarantee from Friedman's front office).

How can this be done? Though it seems hard for this regime, it's actually quite simple: spend like the second-richest organization in the sport. Far too often the Dodgers get fancy with their offers to free agents. Far too often the Dodgers fret about paying for the regression years on bigger contracts.

Though Nola was probably always returning the Philly as long as Dave Dombrowski remained in the same ballpark as the outside bidding, the Dodgers never really felt like a threat if we're to believe the reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required).

Dodgers losing out on Aaron Nola shows they must change their financial approach

"The Braves, off back-to-back 100-win seasons and divisional-round ousters by the Phillies, made a six-year, $162 million offer to Nola out of the chute, a source said Sunday.

The deep-pocketed — and pitching-starving — Dodgers put a finger on the scale at $165 million, according to a source. Phillies officials suspected more teams were involved, with at least one other club offering more."

Scott Lauber, Philly Inquirer

Yup, the Dodgers "put a finger on the scale" -- not what one of the most powerful teams in the sport should be doing with a free agent they apparently covet, especially when they saw previous reports suggesting Nola was looking for ~$200 million. We're not saying give the man exactly what he was apparently seeking, but definitely don't go under by $35 million and only out-bid a team that's better than you by $3 million.

With how aggressively the Phillies have been spending, too, why did LA think this number would get the job done if they were actually serious in their pursuit of Nola? These types of "feeler" offers aren't the type big-market behemoths should be wasting their time with.

Not only that, but we know the Dodgers have been hesitant to offer more years/security with an overly watchful eye on future spending. That's not the way the league is trending, as evidenced by the recent contracts given to guys like Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Aaron Judge, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Bryce Harper, Rafael Devers and others. The Dodgers do employ Mookie Betts on a 12-year contract, but that represents a rarity for LA, who obviously got that deal done as quickly as possible to avoid a future conflict in free agency.

So now the attention will shift to trade candidate Dylan Cease as well as available high-priced free agents Shohei Ohtani, Blake Snell, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Jordan Montgomery. Perhaps the Dodgers used Nola as a litmus test for the offseason. In that case, they get a pass.

But if their lack of aggressive proactivity continues with these other names? Kiss the 2024 season goodbye before it even begins.