Dave Dombrowski discusses how Phillies' trade for Gregory Soto came together

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Dombrowski discusses how Phillies' trade for Gregory Soto came together originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies and Tigers discussed Gregory Soto at the Winter Meetings a month ago but couldn't work out a trade before leaving San Diego.

There was no communication from there about a potential Soto trade until Thursday, when Dombrowski received a call from Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris, who wanted to see if the Phillies were interested in reopening discussions about the left-handed reliever.

They were, and less than 48 hours later, a deal was struck. The Phillies traded outfielder Matt Vierling, utilityman Nick Maton and catcher Donny Sands to Detroit for Soto and utilityman Kody Clemens.

"We talked about some different names and different thought processes," Dombrowski said Saturday afternoon. "He told me what they would do. So over the last couple of days we've had a chance to kick that around internally and we finally came up with it. We like the players that we gave up, not easy for us. They all contributed last year. But we just felt the opportunity to add another back-end arm that we really, really like, that we also have control over for three years, that it made us better going into the season."

Soto has been an American League All-Star each of the last two seasons. He saved 30 games in 2022 with a 3.28 ERA. His 98.7 mph four-seam fastball average led all left-handed pitchers last season and his 98.1 mph sinker trailed only Aroldis Chapman and new Phillies teammate Jose Alvarado.

He joins Seranthony Dominguez, Craig Kimbrel, Jose Alvarado and Matt Strahm at the back end of a Phillies bullpen that also includes Connor Brogdon and Andrew Bellatti, two right-handers coming off of strong years.

"Hopefully, it will help us a great deal," Dombrowski said. "We really like our pitching staff at this point. We've got four veteran starters with some young guys behind them that we really like. We're in a spot now where our bullpen's deep. Guys are going to be down at various times, but all the sudden you look at the guys who can pitch for you at the back end of games from the left side and right side. It gives us a lot of depth right now in the organization from a pitching perspective. You never have enough of it."

Soto turns 28 next month and is under team control through the end of the 2025 season. This offseason is his first of arbitration eligibility and his salary is projected to rise from the $730,000 range to close to $3 million. He's currently playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic as he prepares for the World Baseball Classic, which takes place from March 8-21.

Soto has been a closer for most of the last two seasons but isn't going to step into that role here. The Phils have at least four options to close and are more likely to play matchups than have a 40-save reliever.

"He was thrilled to join us," Dombrowski said. "People look at our ballclub now, they look at the arms we have out there, they're happy to contribute at the back end. He's going to pitch meaningful innings and meaningful games. We know he wants to pitch for a winner, so we didn't sense any type of complaints from him."

While they add another accomplished reliever, the Phillies did lose two members of their bench in Vierling and Maton. Kody Clemens, the 26-year-old son of Roger Clemens, could end up filling Maton's role. He hit 13 homers with an .862 OPS at Triple A last season but struggled in the majors, batting .145 with a .197 on-base percentage. Clemens did flash some pop with five home runs, including one of only three hit all season against elite closer Emmanuel Clase.

Vierling had 357 plate appearances for the Phillies last season and would have been in line for more work against left-handed pitching in 2023. His departure means more of an opportunity for Dalton Guthrie, and it also could mean more plate appearances against lefties for lefty-hitting centerfielder Brandon Marsh.

"We think (Marsh) can continue to grow against left-handed pitching and he will hit left-handed pitching," Dombrowski said. "We don't look at him as a platoon type of player, we think he has more ability than that. We do like Dalton Guthrie, too. We think he can go out and play center field, move around and contribute from an offensive perspective."