Over the last few days, the Phillies have made two trades to improve their bullpen for the upcoming season.
On Saturday afternoon, the Phillies and Tigers agreed to terms on a trade that sent INF/OF Matt Vierling, INF/OF Nick Maton, and C Donny Sands to Detroit, and brought LHP Gregory Soto and INF/OF Kody Clemens to Philadelphia.
This trade makes sense for both clubs. The Phillies have built up depth over the last few seasons and traded some of it to the Tigers to improve their bullpen and bring some depth back in return. For the Tigers, who are in the middle of a rebuild, they are able to add young and contractually controllable players to their big league roster.
Let’s break the trades down, and see who the Phillies gave up, along with what they received.
First, let’s start with their deal with Detroit, which is the bigger of the two trades.
What They’re Giving Up
We’re starting off with Donny Sands, a seemingly soon-to-be-traded player. The Phillies already have two catchers set to be on their major league roster this year in J.T. Realmuto and Garrett Stubbs. They also have Rafael Marchan on their 40-man roster, who was once a top 10 prospect for the organization. Sands was an expendable player.
Over the last two seasons in the minors, the 26-year-old broke out, especially offensively. He hit .308/.413/.428 in Triple-A in 2022, with a 15.7% walk rate and an 18.2% strikeout rate.
Defensively, the knock on Sands is his ability to control the running game. Attempting base stealers have had success against him in the minors. It will be interesting to see how he develops at the big league level if given the chance to be an everyday catcher.
Nick Maton was also a player who seemed likely to eventually be traded. The Phillies have depth around the infield, and with Edmundo Sosa set to be the Phillies’ top infield glove off the bench this year, Maton wasn’t likely to see much playing time.
For his career, the left-handed hitting Maton is a .254/.330/.434 hitter with 7 home runs in 216 plate appearances. He has hit fastballs well in his short big-league career. Last year he hit .406 against fastballs with a .844 slugging percentage. In 2021, he hit .288 and slugged .424 against fastballs.
Maton, 25, has played second base, shortstop, third base, left field, and right field in the big leagues.
Lastly, Matt Vierling, 26, has the most big-league experience out of the three players traded to Detroit. He made his big league debut in 2021 and hit .324/.364/.479 in 77 plate appearances that year.
This past season was more of a disappointment for Vierling. In 357 plate appearances, he hit .246/.297/.351. While he did struggle at the plate, his .279 xBA was in the 93rd percentile and his average exit velocity was in the 86th percentile.
The right-handed hitter has struggled against right-handed pitchers and has had success against left-handed pitchers to this point in his career. In 256 career plate appearances against righties, Vierling is hitting .228/.285/.339. Against lefties, he is hitting .307/.343/.423 in 178 plate appearances.
As a defender, Vierling was in a platoon role in center field for most of 2022, especially after the Phillies traded for Brandon Marsh at the trade deadline. He saw most of his defensive innings in the outfield but did play some infield for the Phillies when they needed it.
Overall, he was around league average defensively. He played 434.2 innings in center field (-1 OAA, -7 DRS), 146.2 innings in left field (0 OAA, 0 DRS), and 175 innings in right field (1 OAA, 1 DRS). Also, Vierling fell into the 80th percentile in arm strength in 2022.
With Riley Greene set to play every day in center field for Detroit in 2023, look for Vierling to get playing time in the corner outfield spots.
The former 5th-round pick out of Notre Dame is also one of the faster players in the majors. His 29.6 ft/s sprint speed was in the 97th percentile in 2022.
What They’re Getting
Kody Clemens is the son of former big league pitcher Roger Clemens. He was drafted out of the University of Texas in the third round in 2018.
Clemens is 26 and bats from the left side. He made his major league debut in 2022. While appearing in 56 games, he hit .145/.197/.308 with 5 home runs in 127 plate appearances. His numbers in the minors last year were much better. In 264 Triple-A plate appearances, Clemens hit .274/.327/.535 with 13 home runs.
In both the minor and major leagues, Clemens spent plenty of time moving around the diamond. During his time with the big league club, he played 282.1 innings in the field. He played third base, first base, second base, and left field.
The main piece of this trade for the Phillies is the left-handed pitching Soto. He is a great addition to a bullpen that already has Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvardo, and Craig Kimbrel, who recently signed a 1-year, $10 million contract, set to get plenty of late-inning outs. Soto can now be added to that list.
The lefty has pitched 204.2 innings in the big leagues with 210 punch-outs and a 4.13 ERA.
The last two seasons have been better than his first few in the majors. The two-time All-Star threw 63.2 innings with a 3.39 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 2021. He had a 3.28 ERA in 2022 with 60 strikeouts in 60.1 innings.
Soto profiles as a hard-throwing left-handed reliever who surrenders plenty of walks. He has a career 13.1% walk rate.
It is a similar profile to the previously mentioned Jose Alvarado, who after a short stint in the minors in 2022, became one of the most dominant arms in the majors. The Phillies were able to fix Alvarado, so they must feel they may be able to do the same with Soto when it comes to his walk totals.
Soto mainly throws a sinker, a four-seam fastball, and a slider. His sinker averaged 98.1 MPH in 2022, while his four-seamer averaged 98.7 MPH. Soto’s fastball velocity fell in the 98th percentile among big league pitchers in 2022.
The addition of Soto gives the Phillies a young left-handed reliever who has three years of club control remaining. The soon-to-be 28-year-old can’t become a free agent until after the 2025 season. So, not only does this move make them better this year, but also for the future. It also could be a bit of an insurance pickup, as Jose Alvarado is currently scheduled to be a free agent after the upcoming season.
Now, let’s look over their trade with the San Francisco Giants.
What They’re Giving Up
Erik Miller is a left-handed reliever who pitched in both Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. He’s 24 years old and appeared in the 2022 Futures Game.
In Double-A, Miller pitched 36.1 innings, with a 2.23 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 22 appearances. He saw less time in Triple-A, as he only threw 12.0 innings, with a 7.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts.
After having been one of the Phillies’ top prospects over the last few seasons, he was left off the club’s 40-man roster this winter, which made him eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft in December. Miller went unselected.
Miller has struggled with injuries, and it seems like the Phillies were ready to move on from the lefty.
What They’re Getting
Like Gregory Soto, Yunior Marte throws hard, has had trouble with walks, and has multiple years of club control left.
Marte is a right-handed pitcher and made his big league debut with the Giants in 2022. He pitched a total of 48.0 innings, with a 5.44 ERA and 44 strikeouts. The righty also pitched 25.2 innings in Triple-A last year, where his ERA was 3.16 and he struck out 35 batters.
Also, just like Soto, Marte’s repertoire includes a sinker, a four-seam fastball, and a slider. His fastball velocity fell into the 94th percentile among major leaguers. The average velocity of his sinker was 96.9 MPH and his four-seamer’s average velocity was 97.8 MPH.
His walk rate was 10.3%.
While Marte likely isn’t going to be used late in ball games, he should be a solid option to be one of the first arms used out of the bullpen. He is a little bit of a project, but the Phillies obviously see something in the almost 28-year-old that they like.
With these trades, the Phillies continue to bolster their bullpen as they look to defend their National League championship in 2023.
Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, and Donny Sands were all a part of the organizational depth Dave Dombrowski has built since coming to Philadelphia. None of them were likely to become full-time players in the Phillies’ current window of contention, so it is not a surprise they were used in a trade.
Are any of them ever going to be All-Star caliber players? Probably not, but you never know. They are all, at the very least, going to be able to contribute at the big league level if utilized correctly for many years to come.
Kody Clemens is by no means a likely candidate to help the Phillies win a ton of ball games this year, but it should be interesting to see how they use him moving forward. Gregory Soto was the clear target of this trade, and he adds more firepower to a Phillies bullpen that is shaping up to be one of the better bullpens they have had in a long time.
Before any of the players involved in the trade between Philadelphia and Detroit appear in a game for their new teams, it looks to be a win-win for both organizations.
The swap of Erik Miller for Yunior Marte seems like a trade where both clubs feel a change of scenery could benefit both players.
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