While it seems less than likely that the Philadelphia Phillies will be seriously competing for a playoff spot in September of 2017, whatever hopes they may have had became more complicated Wednesday.
The Phillies didn't shock anyone by announcing that RHP Aaron Nola was transferred to the 60-day disabled list, a move that will end his sophomore season in the major leagues. All things considered, Nola is lucky to not have had more severe injuries than what have been deemed as "low-grade" injuries to both his UCL and Flexor tendon.
All that taken into account, it means that Nola will end the season having thrown just 111 innings. In 2015, between Double A, Triple A and his time with the Phillies, Nola threw a combined 185.6 innings. Granted, only 77.2 of those innings came at the big league level, but if Matt Klentak and Phillies brass planned to limit the innings of Nola after he threw a combined 185.6 innings, they certainly will in a year after arm injuries limited him to pitch just 111 total innings.
If the Phillies believed that 2017 was a year that they could realistically make a playoff run, then they could enter the season knowing that they needed to limit Nola's innings in April, in hopes that he would be able to pitch effectively in September and October without risking his health. The Phillies probably don't feel that way, however, which means that assuming Nola remains healthy for the entire 2017 season, he will likely be shut down once he gets somewhere in the range of 175 innings.
Nola's long-term health is of the utmost importance, especially when you consider that 2018 and 2019 would seem to be the beginning of a potential Phillies playoff window. The 2017 season will stay take place, though, and when you mix in the fact that the Phillies will probably always be super careful with Vince Velasquez's health, it's hard to imagine them having the necessary starting pitching to compete late in the season, should they find themselves in contention into August. (Them being a contender in 2017 is probably less than likely, but staying afloat into August isn't out of the realm of possibilities.)
What a likely innings limit for Nola, mixed with lingering concerns about Velasquez's health, means for the Phillies is that they will probably have to acquire at least one "Jeremy Hellickson type" for the 2017 season, simply to eat innings. Perhaps Hellickson is retained -- be it after accepting a qualifying offer or signing a multi-year deal -- or perhaps the team attempts to re-sign Charlie Morton for cheap coming off an injury. Perhaps both will return, or one of the two returns with a new face.
If anything is clear, it's that Nola's season-ending injuries have unquestionably changed the outlook for his 2017 season, and probably how the team's rotation will be constructed.