Trading popular reserve players jades a fanbase against the player they are traded for. When news struck that Matt Vierling and Nick Maton were being traded from a pennant winning Phillies team, there was a tinge of sadness and disappointment. They were fan, and clubhouse, favorites and provided cheap, effective backup solutions to the bench. In return, the Phillies got Gregory Soto, who would prove to be...divisive...in some corners of that fanbase.
2023 stats: 69 G (nice), 60 1⁄3 IP, 34 R (31 ER), 6 HR, 26.0 K%, 8.8 BB%, 4.62 ERA (2.84 xERA), 0.9 fWAR
When thinking about Soto coming into the season, the parallels to be drawn between him and Jose Alvarado, pre-2022, were striking:
- good stuff
- not really sure where it’s going
The numbers backed it up. The walk rate hovered somewhere in the teens while the strikeout rate was in the mid-20’s. He didn’t give up a ton of home runs or hits, but men always seemed to be on base. Something that was concerning was that in 2022, while his ERA looked good, his saves looked good, his strikeout rate actually dropped closer to 20% than they ever had in his career. It may have been why the Phillies were able to get him relatively cheaply. Maybe the Tigers were getting what they could before the bottom dropped out and his trade value was nil.
Instead, getting to work under Caleb Cotham and company, Soto was able to cut his walk rate, bring his strikeout rate back more in line with his career averages and saw his under the hood stuff get better as well. He was helped by a bit more luck (.265 BABIP was a near 30 point drop from 2022), but still, a reversal of some trends that were heading in the wrong direction. That’s what you want to have happen with an arm like Soto.
It’s not beyond hyperbole to say that the Phillies have four solid relievers in Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Jeff Hoffman and Soto.
Is it fair to say that Soto has the least amount of trust among those four?
While the other three had their bouts of wildness when on the mound, it always felt like Soto was the one that saw those bouts go on for longer amounts of time. It’s a subjective take, of course, since Soto was fourth on the team in gmLI with a 1.38 mark, but boy it really didn’t feel like that. There just always felt like danger was just around the corner when Soto was on the mound, but if you look at what his ERA was and what his ERA was expected to be, that lens make his season look better than it was. Even though Cotham got Soto to lower that walk rate in 2023, I can think of about a few thousand people that wouldn’t mind seeing that number go down a bit more.
For now, Soto will return in 2024. He’s still a hard throwing left-handed pitcher who is able to strike out hitters at an above average rate. Teams do not get rid of them easily. He’s under team control for 2025 before he gets to explore free agency and shouldn’t command so much money the team would want to move on.