Apparently, Phillies team president Dave Dombrowski wasn’t done this off-season.
After adding Trea Turner, Taijuan Walker, Matt Strahm and Craig Kimbrel through free agency, Dombrowski swings his first major trade of the winter, acquiring Tigers fire-balling left-handed reliever Gregory Soto and utility infielder Kody Clemens for outfielder Matt Vierling, utility infielder Nick Maton and AAA catcher Donny Sands.
The possibility of a deal was first floated by recently-retired NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury and MLB Networks’ Jon Morosi.
Hearing Phillies are working on a trade for reliever Gregory Soto. Would be nice addition to bullpen if completed.— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) January 7, 2023
The Tigers-Phillies trade is agreed upon pending medical reviews, I'm told:— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 7, 2023
Detroit acquires Nick Maton, Matt Vierling, and Donny Sands.
Philadelphia acquires Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens.
Credit to @JSalisburyNBCS for initial report. @MLBNetwork @MLBNetworkRadio @MLB
Neither team has officially announced the deal as of yet.
Soto was an All Star for the disappointing Tigers the last two seasons, serving as their primary closer. He saved 30 games last year, 5th most in the American League, with a 3.28 ERA in 60.1 innings. In 2021, the 27-year-old saved 18 games with a 3.39 ERA in 63.2 innings of work. Soto struck out 22.8% of batters faced last year, a drop from 27.5% the season before, but did an excellent job keeping the ball in the yard, with just two home runs allowed all season. His 12.9% walk rate (5.07 BB/9) is high, but was a career low last season.
Soto demonstrated a reverse platoon split in ‘22 as he used his slider less, with a .634 OPS allowed against right-handers as opposed to a .743 OPS allowed against fellow left-handers. In his career, he’s allowed just a .605 OPS against lefties versus a .758 OPS against right-handers.
In addition to Strahm and Jose Alvarado, Soto gives manager Rob Thomson a third late-inning left-handed option with experience saving games. Paired with Alvarado, the Phils now possess perhaps the two hardest throwing lefty relievers in baseball.
José Alvarado and Gregory Soto combined to account for 81% of the 100+ MPH pitches thrown by all LHPs in the 2022 MLB regular season— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) January 7, 2023
The Phillies are likely to enter the season without a designated closer for the 9th inning, planning to mix and match Alvarado and Soto with Kimbrel and Seranthony Dominguez throughout 2023, as they did in the postseason last year.
The 26-year-old Clemens made his Major League debut for the Tigers last year and hit .145/.197/.308 in 127 plate appearances. He displayed good power in the minors, swatting 13 homers in 60 AAA games with a slugging percentage of .535, including this grand slam late in the year.
Vierling heads to Detroit, where he could slide into a starting spot at any of their three outfield positions. The versatile 26-year-old hit .246/.297/.351 in 357 PAs last season and was expected to be a big contributor in 2023 as part of the outfield mix with Bryce Harper on the injured list to start the season. Vierling’s departure could spur Dombrowski to add a veteran right-handed outfielder to the roster, with Adam Duvall, Jurickson Profar, and Andrew McCutchen potential right-handed options available in free agency. Corey Dickerson, Kole Calhoun and Tyler Naquin are among the left-handed options. Dalton Guthrie, who played extremely well during Harper’s absence, is a potential internal option to replace Vierling as well.
Maton has been a productive big league player in limited action over his first two season, hitting a combined .254/.330/.434 in 216 career PAs. In 85 plate appearances last year he had an OPS of .855 and was one of the locker room’s most popular players upon his call-up from Lehigh Valley last season.
Sands played all of last season in the minors, with an .852 OPS in 60 games.
Reaction to the trade thus far has been positive for the Phillies.
Tremendous trade by #Phillies to acquire LHP Gregory Soto from #Tigers as they continue to build a dominant bullpen. Soto joins RHP Seranthony Dominguez, LHP Jose Alvarado, RHP Craig Kimbrel, LHP Matt Strahm, RHP Andrew Bellatti & RHP Connor Brogdon. #Impressive #NLChamps— Jim Bowden⚾️ (@JimBowdenGM) January 7, 2023
Phillies having big winter. I might have to move them up on this list. Soto big plus for penhttps://t.co/qk4a300m8y— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 7, 2023
Soto will be under team control through the 2026 season and not available to become a free agent until 2027. In case you need it, here’s a bunch of highlights.
Here’s 7+ minutes of 2022 Gregory Soto highlights pic.twitter.com/MljDmBRHTt— John Foley (@2008Philz) January 7, 2023
The NL champs’ bullpen just got even better.