The Phillies community was hit with a true bitter-sweet moment on Saturday afternoon when the Phillies traded fan favorites Nick Maton and Matt Vierling to the Detroit Tigers. While it was tough to see two members of The Daycare leave, through the deal they were able to acquire one of the best left handed relievers in the game.
Gregory Soto is a two-time all-star who is under team control until the end of the 2025 season. He is known to have some command issues, however, he still was able to have 48 saves in the past two seasons combined, which is one of the higher marks in baseball.
Soto is known for his explosive fastball from the left side, one that averages 98.8 mph. Only one left-handed reliever averages a better fastball velocity than Soto, and he too resides in the Phillies bullpen (Jose Alvarado).
The acquisition of Soto highlights an extremely improved bullpen when compared to the one the National League champions went into the 2022 season with.
In 2022 they entered the season with:
Corey Knebel, Brad Hand, Jeurys Familia, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Connor Brogdon, Bailey Falter, and Nick Nelson.
They now enter 2023 with:
Craig Kimbrel, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Connor Brogdon, Gregory Soto, Matt Strahm, and Andrew Bellatti.
In simpler terms, they exchanged Corey Knebel, Brad Hand, and Jeurys Familia for Craig Kimbrel, Gregory Soto, and Matt Strahm.
Before acquiring Soto via trade, the Phillies signed Matt Strahm for 2 years for $15 million and active saves leader Craig Kimbrel for 1 year for $10 million.
It’s also important to note the mid-season emergences of Alvarado and Bellati in 2022.
While Bailey Falter and Nick Nelson aren’t in the clear 7-man bullpen crew, they will certainly be used as Falter will see work in the rotation and as a long reliever. Nelson could also play a similar role to last season as a long reliever. Sam Coonrod and Erich Uelmen are also possible options at any point this season if needed.
The top pitching prospects of Griff McGarry, Mick Able, and Andrew Painter could also be seen in the bullpen or a 5th starter spot at some point this season.
Soto’s acquisition gives Manager Rob Thomson even more options for each late-game situation he will face. While he likely won’t have set situations for each pitcher, he has been given a group with great flexibility.
For closing out games, he has the options of Craig Kimbrel (one of the best of all time), Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, and Gregory Soto, all with closing experience.
For the middle innings, he has the option of using Andrew Bellati, Connor Brogdon, and Matt Strahm.
If you were to look into specialty situations, such as facing a great left-handed hitter, the once-limited options are now endless. Alvarado, Soto, and Strahm are all able to be used in these situations. Connor Brogdon is also able to be used against lefties (as he was in 2022) because of his great changeup that produces reverse splits.
What just a year ago was a weakness for the club now seems to be a strength.
Dave Dombrowski and the organization likely decided to bolster this group so much due to its weakness being exposed in the World Series. The weakness was not shown in the actual mid-tier guys on the mound but rather through the lack of higher-end talent able to be used.
The bullpen was amazing throughout the 2022 postseason and was a large reason of why the team was able to play up until the last game of the season.
However, it was apparent to the naked eye that towards the end of the magical run, the high-end guys such as Dominguez and Alvarado were beginning to tire because of their immense amount of use.
Alvarado’s at-bats against Yordan Alvarez were a great example of this. After hitting Alvarez in game 4, he then faced Alvarez again in game 6. Alvarez hit a moonshot to centerfield, the final nail in the coffin for the series.
However, it wasn’t Thomson or Alvarado’s fault. If the Phillies were to have more options to pitch against a power lefty, Thomson could have gone to another guy. But, Thomson was forced to go to Alvarado because of the lack of options. If that moment were to be repeated with the Phillies bullpen today, Thomson could have chosen Soto or even Strahm.
The Astros ultimately bested the Phillies in the fall classic because of the lack of high-end options. The Phillies’ high-end options were able to match and at times beat the Astros guys. However, the Astros had many more high-end options, ultimately giving them extra rest and fewer chances to make a mistake.
After heavily improving the bullpen this offseason, Philadelphia should be able to put up a better fight if they are given a chance to compete in the World Series once again.