Dave Dombrowski. The Phillies President of Baseball Operations has a long history of making franchise-altering moves to push a team over the hump. While Dombrowski’s latest addition may not be “franchise-altering,” it certainly gives the Phils’ one of the most talented bullpens they’ve ever assembled.
On Saturday, the Phillies acquired LHP Gregory Soto and INF Kody Clemens from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for OF Matt Vierling, INF Nick Maton, and C Donny Sands. Soto, the main piece coming to Philly, was the Tigers closer last year saving 30 games and posting a 3.24 ERA. The lefty flamethrower’s pitch arsenal includes a heavy sinker, four-seam fastball, and wipeout slider. His fastball averages about 98 mph with the ability to pass triple digits. Command, though, has been an issue for Soto as his 12.9 BB% ranked near the bottom of qualified pitchers. However, the 27-year-old reliever has been able to find success despite his walk rate, making the All-Star Game in each of the past two seasons. Possibly the most appealing part of Soto is he has three years left of arbitration until he reaches free agency, meaning the Fightins will get all-star level production in the back of the bullpen at an extremely low cost. If the Phillies pitching development can help Soto find more control like they did with fellow hard-throwing lefty Jose Alvarado, the Phils could have the most fearsome duo of southpaw relievers in all of baseball.
Clemens, son of former 7x Cy Young winner Roger Clemens, saw limited time in the majors last season batting .145/.197/.308 in just 117 at-bats. However, the 26-year-old slashed .274/.327/.535 in Triple-A with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs in 60 games. With the ability to play all over the diamond, Clemens will serve as a depth option with the chance to break camp with the big league club.
With the deal now official, the Phillies won the trade resoundingly. The package heading to Detroit––Nick Maton, Matt Vierling, and Donny Sands––is unfortunate for the clubhouse as Maton and Vierling were beloved members of the Phillies Daycare, but a no-brainer when looking at the talent brought back. Maton and Vierling played well when given the opportunity at the big league level, but are nothing more than role players who should only get about 300 plate appearances a year. Specifically, Maton is blocked in the infield by Rhys Hoskins, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, and Alec Bohm while Vierling, who was slated to be the opening day right fielder with Bryce Harper still recovering from Tommy John surgery, struggled against right-handed pitchers hitting just .217 with a .580 OPS last year. Sands, who made his big league debut in September, was a casualty of the Phils’ abundance of catching depth rising through the minor league system.
The Phillies, with the addition of Soto, may have the most talented bullpen in their franchise’s history, a dramatic turnaround after blowing 34 saves in 2021. Though Maton and Vierling have become fan and clubhouse favorites, to acquire an all-star reliever with three years left of team control, they were a cheap price the Phillies had to meet. With the exception of a couple minor league moves to bolster depth, it looks like Dave Dombrowski’s stellar offseason is finished. All the chips are in…it’s time to finish the job.
Photo: David Zalubowski/AP Photo