A’s trade Cristian Pache to Phillies for RHP Billy Sullivan

That’s a wrap on The Cristian Pache Era in Oakland. It lasted just one year and 15 days.

Back on Feb. 21, the second day with the full squad in camp, A’s manager Mark Kotsay foreshadowed that Pache would have an uphill chance to make Oakland’s 26-man roster out of camp. Everyone knew the situation. Dogged by a 10-inning stint in 2020 that ate up a year of his minor-league options, Pache had to make the opening day roster or he was likely out the door, since he was out of options.

“He’s in a difficult situation without having the opportunity to be optioned and stay in this organization,” Kotsay said, via A’s media relations. “Not only is he competing for a roster spot here, but he’s gonna showcase himself for 29 other teams. It’s an important spring for Pache, no question. From an individual standpoint and for his career going forward.”

After Kotsay told reporters Pache didn’t make the team on Monday night, one of those 29 other teams finalized a deal on Wednesday. The A’s announced that they have acquired minor-league right-hander Billy Sullivan, a reliever who reached the Double-A last year, posting a 4.59 ERA in 44 appearances for the Reading Fight’ Phils. The A’s had until 9 a.m. PT on Thursday to execute a trade or they would have designated Pache for assignment, but they were able to find a trade partner.

“This kid still has a big future in this game in my opinion,” Kotsay said Monday. “Plus defender and I think the offensive side, it always takes longer to develop. Unfortunately for us and where we’re at, we kinda ran out of time with that.”

Sullivan underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 and signed with the Phillies, the team he grew up rooting for, in 2020. He reportedly features a fastball that sits around 94-97 mph with a tight slider in the low 80s, according to Phillies Minor Thoughts. The 23-year-old made three early spring training appearances and got lit up for eight runs in two innings of work.

It’s been a quick fall from grace for Pache, who arrived in Oakland as a centerpiece of the Matt Olson trade along with catcher Shea Langeliers. Sullivan isn’t a surefire prospect, along with the other two right-handers acquired in the deal, minor leaguers Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes.

Unless Langeliers pans out into a two-way All-Star like Olson, it’s safe to say the A’s took a big ‘L’ when they traded away their franchise first baseman last year. Such is life when John Fisher is the owner.

Esteury Ruiz’s arrival in the Sean Murphy trade also made Pache expendable. Pache slugged just .419 in 43 spring at-bats and didn’t show a big spike in power after slashing an abysmal .166/.218/.241 in 91 games with Oakland last year. His defense is Gold Glove caliber in center field, but the A’s clearly didn’t see enough development with the bat this spring.

Ruiz slashed .326/.411/.522 this spring with two homers and an American League-best 17 RBIs. Ironically, the only guy he trailed in the spring was Olson, who led all players with eight dingers and 18 RBIs. Ruiz isn’t as good as Pache in center field but he’s still a plus defender and has a much better profile at the plate – along with his 80-grade speed.

Left-handed hitting Conner Capel and right-handed hitting Brent Rooker will now be the primary outfielders off the bench, with Seth Brown starting in left, Ruiz in center and Ramón Laureano in right field.