Over the weekend, the reigning NL champion Philadelphia Phillies acquired reliever Gregory Soto in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. The two-time All-Star will help form the hardest-throwing duo in MLB alongside Jose Alvarado.
Couldn't the Los Angeles Dodgers have used a flamethrowing lefty in their bullpen as an upgrade over ... somebody? Alex Vesia is top dog in that department, but Victor Gonzalez missed all of 2022 with an injury, Justin Bruihl took a major step back, and Caleb Ferguson isn't consuming high-leverage innings.
With the trade market still failing to materialize, the Dodgers have yet to make their patented offseason deal on that front, but this seemed like a second-tier move that was well within reach, based on what the Phillies surrendered.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski sent utility players Matt Vierling and Nick Maton, as well as catcher Donny Sands, to Detroit for Soto and utilityman Kody Clemens. If the Tigers were willing to accept that in exchange for THREE years of control for Soto, then where were the Dodgers?
Soto isn't exactly a marquee asset. His career 4.29 FIP and 1.49 WHIP remain concerns. But his pitching profile is exactly something the Dodgers can work with and turn around quickly.
Why didn't the Dodgers explore a trade for Tigers' Gregory Soto?
Soto, 28, has gradually improved under the Tigers' watch since debuting in 2019. And there's still room for him to grow. Even as he was working through his mechanics and arsenal, he managed 48 saves with the Tigers over the last two seasons.
With the Dodgers not possessing a closer and facing as much uncertainty as they possibly can with Blake Treinen's shoulder issue, dealing for Soto would've been much preferred to almost anything else -- especially getting involved in the Aroldis Chapman chase.
Some Dodgers fans might be content watching Evan Phillips slip into the closer role for the time being, but his first full season of success in 2022 (1.14 ERA, 1.94 FIP, 0.76 WHIP) isn't enough of a track record to suggest he's ready for a full-time high-leverage role every single night. Last year was the first time he's been exposed to that on a regular basis (but hey, we'll remain optimistic ... it just feels like an unnecessary gamble).
Looking at the rest of the bullpen, too, you might wonder if Yency Almonte can replicate his 2022. Or if Phil Bickford will bounce back. Or if Shelby Miller can be what the Dodgers want him to be. Or if JP Feyereisen will actually pitch at all in 2023.
Hopefully, the next desired relief option on the trade market doesn't get swiped right from out from under the Dodgers like Soto did.