Nola’s non-tender marks the end of a three-and-a-half-year tenure in San Diego. The Friars picked him up alongside Dan Altavilla and Austin Adams in a now clearly lopsided (in the other direction) swap that sent a four-player package of Ty France, Andres Munoz, Luis Torrens and Taylor Trammell to the Mariners back in 2020. At the time, Nola had been an unmitigated steal for the Mariners in free agency, signing a minor league contract and coming out of nowhere to deliver a .280/.351/.476 batting line in 377 plate appearances while playing catcher, first base, second base, third base and the outfield corners.
Nola’s production almost immediately took a nosedive following the swap, however, and in 819 career plate appearances with the Padres he’s a .234/.314/.320 hitter — including a particularly woeful .146/.260/.192 slash in 154 plate appearances this past season. (France and Munoz, meanwhile, have gone on to become key players for a rebuild Mariners roster, although the former struggled himself in 2023.)
With Nola projected for a $2.35MM salary (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz), the Padres cutting payroll, and fellow catcher Luis Campusano breaking out to the tune of a .319/.356/.491 batting line in 49 games, Nola no longer had a clear fit in the organization. He’ll turn 34 next month and look to latch on with new club between now and Opening Day.
Hill, also 33, has built a quietly solid track record over a six-year career between the Royals and Padres, though he stumbled to a career-worst 5.48 ERA in 44 1/3 frames this past season. Hill’s 2023 included a lowly 12.9% strikeout rate, although his 6.9% walk rate and particularly his 61.2% grounder rate were both strong marks.
From 2019-22, Hill totaled 165 1/3 innings of 3.70 ERA ball between Kansas City and San Diego, fanning 20.2% of his opponents against an 8.1% walk rate and superlative 58.9% ground-ball rate. He’s long had rather glaring platoon splits, however, making him a victim of the rule that stipulated pitchers must face at least three opponents per outing (or finish the inning). Hill has held opposing lefties to a dreary .223/.302/.304 batting line in his career but yielded an unsightly .284/.351/.460 slash against right-handers. He’ll hit the market in search of a rebound opportunity, likely on a one-year contract or minor league deal.
Kohlwey, 29, made his big league debut this season and went 2-for-13 with a pair of singles. The former 21st-round pick is a career .296/.387/.444 hitter in parts of four Triple-A seasons. The 26-year-old Espada pitched a scoreless inning for the Padres in his MLB debut in 2023. They plucked him out of indie ball in 2022, and he notched a 2.81 ERA with a big 31.4% strikeout rate but a concerning 12.8% walk rate in 83 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season. Both players will look for new opportunities as minor league free agents.