2. Aaron Nola
The top 3 names on this list just feel like St. Louis Cardinals. We've already seen Jordan Montgomery fit in seemingly here, and Aaron Nola just seems like the kind of guy that the Cardinals would want topping their rotation as well.
Nola is as close as possible to a classic starter in today's game. He is always near the top of the league in innings, stays healthy, and just knows how to get outs. He's finished top-10 in Cy Young voting three times in his career, including a fourth-place finish last year, and although his strikeout stuff has dipped a bit this year, he's still averaging 9.3 SO/9.
It's been a weird year for Nola on the mound, posting a 4.49 ERA while allowing the most home runs in the National League with 29. Despite pitching in a hitter's park, Nola has actually pitched better at home this year. He's had a few years in his career where his ERA is higher than you'd like, but overall, he's a durable, consistent arm who won't be the best pitcher in baseball but will consistently be one of the best.
It's always hard to know how guys will age. Nola turned 30 a few months ago, so it's understandable to have skepticism about how he'll fair long-term. Based on how this year has gone though, I do think his contract may not be as crazy as you'd think.
Should he get a six to seven-year deal, I would imagine his AAV is much closer to $25 million than $30 million. Carlos Rodon's contract last winter was $27 million per year over seven years, which feels about the range I see Nola capping out at.
For the Cardinals, there is a lot of value in getting a guy you believe will put up 180-200 innings a year with between a 3.20-3.80 ERA most years. Sure, he's not the wipe-out ace that you dream of, but that's not really in this market this year. Nola provides a lot of stability for a rotation that is so broken right now.