Phillies and Tigers Make Deal as Gregory Soto Heads East: Who Won?

A subject of trade rumors for months, Gregory Soto is now officially on the move. The Tigers closer is reportedly headed to the Phillies, as part of a deal is set to include four other players. So, how did each team do? Let’s look at the returns for each team, starting with the defending National League champions.

Related: A Quick Look at Some Notable Remaining Free Agents in the 2022-23 MLB Offseason

The Phillies’ Return

  • Gregory Soto: -0.1 bWAR in 2022
  • Kody Clemens: -0.2 bWAR in 2022

The big piece in this deal is LHP Gregory Soto. A two-time All-Star, Soto has dealt with command issues over his four-year career. The left-hander possesses a career BB/9 of 5.3, and his BB% rates over the last two seasons ranked among the worst in the league. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that Soto’s arsenal is tough to beat.

The new Phillies reliever boasts a hard sinker that sits in the upper-90’s. Per Baseball Savant, Soto’s fastball spin rate and extension rank among the top 20% of all pitchers.

In addition to his sinker/fastball, the lefty boasts a powerful slider. Soto didn’t use the pitch as much as he did in 2021; the 24-year old used his slider just 21.6% of the time last season, as compared to 37.6% the year prior. Soto’s slider was more hittable last season, as opposing hitters hit .262 off of it, a stark difference from the .138 in 2021. That former figure is despite Soto only leaving it in the middle of the zone 16.0% of the time, as compared to 16.7% the year earlier.

When Soto is clicking, the left-hander possesses an impressive arsenal that is hard to beat. However, below-average control and batted ball metrics — the latter of which also ranked among the worst in the league — are a clear sign that the 24-year-old can be volatile. Sure, one could attribute a bit of bad luck to Soto’s struggles that took place in parts of the season. For one, opposing batters hit .231 (12/52) on pitches out the zone, as compared to .106 (5/47) from the previous year. Still, command and control are the biggest issues with the former Tiger that did record 30 saves last season.

Additionally, Philadelphia picked up infielder/outfielder Kody Clemens. The son of former 300 game winner Roger Clemens, the former Texas product belted five home runs and 17 RBIs across 127 plate appearances last season. However, he hit just .145/.197/.308 last season with Detroit, alongside a below-average 26.0% K% rate. A career .252 hitter in the Minors, Clemens could add some versatility to the Phillies’ bench. The 26-year-old spent time at first, second, third, and left field for Detroit last season.

The Tigers’ Return

  • Matt Vierling: -0.6 bWAR in 2022
  • Nick Maton: 0.6 bWAR in 2022
  • Donny Sands: -0.1 bWAR in 2022

Flush with outfield talent, Philadelphia sends Matt Vierling to Detroit. The former Notre Dame product produced excellent batted ball metrics, as the 26-year-old recorded Hard Hit%, xBA, and average exit velocity figures last season ranked in the top 15% of the league. The new Tigers outfielder doesn’t possess plus pop, but rather has shown himself to be a solid hitter that has good strength and has the ability to line pitches into the outfield on a consistent basis. Additionally, Vierling’s arm strength and speed numbers were among the better ones in the league.

Detroit also received utilityman Nick Maton in this deal. An infielder by trade, Maton has hit .254/.330/.434 with seven home runs and 18 extra base hits across parts of two seasons with the Phillies. The 25-year-old has shown flashes in each of his prior stints with the Phillies, but it was hard to envision Maton getting consistent playing time in an infield that includes Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, and offseason acquisition Trea Turner.

Lastly, Detroit picked up catching prospect Donny Sands. An eight-round pick by the Yankees back in 2015, Sands has accrued just four plate appearances in the Majors. In the Minors, Sands hit .308/.411/.441 with six home runs and 16 extra base hits over 60 games.

It’s been an eventful offseason for the Phillies, as the front office has spent most of it making splashes in the free agent market in order to push Philadelphia back into the World Series. While this move does come with some risk for the Phillies, Soto does possess incredible stuff. The 24-year-old adds plenty of depth to the Phillies’ bullpen, a group that already includes the likes of new reliever Craig Kimbrel, Seranthony Dominguez, and Jose Alvarado. Plus, Philadelphia acquired the best player in this deal without giving up a significant asset from its organization. Given its status as a win-now team, it’s hard to argue that the Phillies don’t look like the team didn’t come out on top after this deal.

That’s not to say that Detroit didn’t get value from this move. The Tigers continue a re-make of its roster by acquiring two toolsy young players, as well as a catching prospect in Sands, that should benefit from the move. All three players, Vierling and Maton in particular, were buried in the Phillies’ depth chart. Now, the two could be poised for more playing time in the AL Central.

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