Regrading the Gregory Soto trade: Did the Detroit Tigers lose this trade?

It's been about one full season, so let's take a look at how the Tigers and Phillies have fared in the Gregory Soto trade.
Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres
Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres / Denis Poroy/GettyImages

The Detroit Tigers traded Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens to the Philadelphia Phillies for Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, and Donny Sands back on Jan. 7. At the time, it was a trade where Tigers fans seemed happier than Phillies fans because the Tigers got two young bats with team control for a polarizing reliever. Phillies fans were also upset that they traded depth for a bullpen piece.

Now, we're almost a full season removed from that trade, and it's been a hot topic of conversation among Tigers fans as of late. While we didn't run an actual grade of the trade around the time it went down, we can say how we would have graded it at the time.

At the time, we would have given the Tigers a B. They got young players with high upside for a reliever that didn't fit the mold of what Scott Harris was looking to build — a team that dominates and controls the strike zone. With Soto's issues with control, he was no longer a good fit in Detroit.

Vierling and Maton both seemed like young, athletic players with some potential. Vierling in particular had some data on baseball savant that looked quite promising.

Now, we're almost a full year removed from the trade. There's only a few weeks left in the season. All players involved in the trade have shown what kind of players they are in the 2023 season. So without further ado, let's regrade Gregory Soto trade.

Regrading the Gregory Soto trade

Tigers: D+

If you look at the WAR of all players involved in the trade, the Tigers are losing this trade by a landslide. Maton has -1.2 fWAR in 93 games this season, and Vierling has a 0.5 fWAR in 115 games. Donny Sands has spent the entire season in Triple-A.

Combined, they have a a WAR of -0.7. That's awful. Even in Maton could have a WAR of a flat 0, this trade would look much better for the Tigers.

Soto, on the other hand, has a 0.7 fWAR for the Phillies this year. They lead in WAR by a margin of 1.4. Just based on that, it looks like Dave Dombrowski fleeced Scott Harris in this trade.

Looking at other stats, Vierling has a .270 batting average. That's solid. but he has for virtually no power over the last three months. He hit his first home run since mid-June last Saturday against the White Sox. Has an ISO of .110 on the year. For a primary corner outfielder, that's not going to get it done.

Looking at his stats in Philly, they were pretty similar. We have a pretty good idea of the kind of player he is. He's a fourth outfielder/utility player at best.

Maton was brutal in the big leagues. He hit .173 with a 66 wRC+. The fact he made it as long as he did before he was sent down is pretty incredible. He walked at a great 13%, but when you can't hit a lick, the walks only do so much.

Now, if you look at the surface numbers, Soto hasn't been very good for the Phillies this year. He has a 4.94 ERA on the season. His K/9 is slightly lower than it was last season. He's also given up more home runs. However, the peripherals tell a much different story.

His expected ERA is 2.92, his FIP is 3.74, and he's not allowing a ton of hard contact. Most importantly, he's cut the walks down significantly. His BB/9 is 3.46 on the season, down from well over five the last four years in Detroit.

The analytics love Soto. His baseball savant page is full of red circles. He may not strike out a bunch of guys, but he misses bats at a borderline elite level.

The biggest improvement appears to be an adjustment with his slider. Hitters hit .262 with a .429 slugging percentage and a .332 WOBA in 2022, but those are all down significantly in 2023. Hitters are batting just .159 against his slider this season.

The slider had a whiff rate of 36.2% last year, but that's up to 46.1% this season. When almost half of your sliders are inducing a swing-and-miss, that's how you know you have a nasty pitch.

Phillies: A-

Considering what the Phillies gave up to get Soto, and how ineffective those assets have been for the Tigers, the Phillies aced this trade pretty easily. They got an effective lefty reliever who misses bats at a high level. Dombrowski has won another trade.

Harris, on the other hand, has whiffed on his first major trade. There's still time to right the wrongs, but this first big move looks to be a dud.

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