One of Dave Dombrowski's goals heading into the 2022 offseason was to bolster the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. The club already had some hard-throwing options in Seranthony Domínguez and José Alvarado. Dombrowski went and added veteran closer Craig Kimbrel to the roster in December.
Then in early January, Dombrowski traded for Detroit Tigers' closer Gregory Soto to add an extra hard-throwing left-hander to complement Alvarado. The trade sent fan favorites Matt Vierling and Nick Maton, along with catcher Donny Sands to Detroit for Soto and infielder Kody Clemens.
It is undeniable that Soto would be an upgrade to the Phillies' bullpen despite some control issues. But was giving up Vierling and Maton worth it? The short answer is yes. Let's take a look at the performances of the major players involved in the trade to see why.
Philadelphia Phillies acquisitions: Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens
Soto— the main part of the trade— has been inconsistent at times in his brief tenure as a Phillies reliever, but overall has been worth it. His 5.73 ERA may look terrible at first glance, but a majority of those runs all came over the course of a few appearances. In 25 appearances Soto has allowed multiple runs in four games and one run in one game. In his other 20 appearances, Soto has not allowed a run and has looked dominant at times. Through 13 April appearances, Soto allowed just one run in 12-1/3 innings pitched while striking out 16 batters.
Soto's issue is control. When his control is on point, he is one of the most dominant relivers in baseball. If he is walking batters, he struggles to get outs. Soto does not become a free agent until after the 2025 season so he will be a key piece of the Phillies' bullpen for the next few years at least.
Clemens has been a pleasant surprise for the Phillies thus far. He was a throw-in piece for the Phillies in the trade to keep some of the infield depth they were losing in giving up Maton. He was called up by the Phillies when Darick Hall was placed on the injured list in early April. Clemens has stepped up on a few occasions and currently has an OPS of .785— better than some of the Phillies regulars. He has filled in well at first base so far when called upon and should be a solid utility man for the Phillies even when Hall returns.
Detroit Tigers acquisitions Nick Maton and Matt Vierling
Both Vierling and Maton benefitted from the trade. They are both seeing regular playing time in Detroit and have the chance to continue to develop. Both players currently have an OPS below .700. Vierling has four home runs and Maton has five. Clemens has four home runs as well but has not had the same amount of playing time.
If the Phillies kept Vierling and Maton, they would not be getting the same amount of playing time that they are getting in Detroit. The Phillies outfield is full, and the only open infield position is first base— neither player fields that position.
Phillies-Tigers trade analysis
Despite the love for Vierling and Maton after the 2022 World Series run, the trade was worth it for the Phillies. They acquired a top-of-the-line reliever. Soto's value only increased when Alvarado was placed on the injured list in early May. Clemens has contributed early on as well and basically cancelled out losing Maton.
Having multiple left-handed relievers that can touch 100 mph on the radar gun is invaluable to a bullpen. If Soto can command his pitches with more consistency, the Phillies will have four dominant relievers at the back end of their bullpen. Even if Soto's ERA hovers around 4.00 for the season, the performance potential he can give out of the bullpen will be well worth losing two utility position players.