Cristian Pache’s DFA is an indictment of the Matt Olson trade

UPDATE: Cristian Pache was traded Wednesday before he could be DFA’d. Original story below.

When the A’s traded Matt Olson to the Atlanta Braves shortly before the 2022 season, outfielder Cristian Pache was heralded as a centerpiece of the deal along with catcher Shea Langeliers.

About 12 months later, the A’s are about to cut ties with the explosive Pache, who put up solid spring numbers but didn’t do enough in the organization’s eyes to earn a 26-man roster spot. Manager Mark Kotsay told reporters following Monday night’s 12-6 win over the Giants in the spring finale that outfielders Brent Rooker and Conner Capel have made the team, meaning Pache and Kevin Smith didn’t make the cut.

While Smith has options remaining, Pache doesn’t, so he is going to be designated for assignment, unless the A’s can execute a trade by Thursday’s 9 a.m. PT deadline. The A’s will have a seven-day window from his DFA to execute a trade or place him on waivers, where could get picked by another team. Listening to Kotsay on Monday night, he doesn’t expect Pache to remain with Oakland.

“This kid, the talent, the abilities defensively, it’s really hard to run out of time with a player that you feel is young and still has a huge future in this game,” Kotsay said, via A’s media relations. “Unfortunately for us and the roster, we’ve kinda run out of time, unfortunately with the options that Pache is out of. We’re gonna have to make a move with Pache.”

The fact the A’s think they “ran out of time” with Pache seems a bit early to me. Kotsay has been firm with his belief in this year’s squad despite outside expectations, but I think they could have afforded to give the 24-year-old a runway to prove himself for a few weeks out of the gates. If Pache was still struggling at the plate in May or June, waive him then, the A’s didn’t have the patience. Those 10 innings he played in 2020 ended up costing him a full year of options, which is a tough break for Pache’s career with Oakland.

It’s also worth noting that Capel and Rooker still have options remaining, so one of them could have been getting everyday at-bats in Triple-A to begin the year.

In 43 at-bats this spring, Pache hit .302/.362/.419 with a double, two triples, no homers, eight RBIs, four walks, eight strikeouts and one stolen base. Last year he struggled in the big leagues, finishing with a .166/.218/.241 slash line and 34 OPS+ in 91 MLB games. His at-bats were rife with weak contact and maybe the A’s didn’t see enough of a power surge this spring. I thought he did enough to earn the fourth outfielder spot, but he’s out the door.

“There are some teams interested and they should be,” Kotsay said. “This kid still has a big future in this game in my opinion. 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.”

Pache’s defense has always been eye opening, as he made several highlight worthy catches in spring training. It would have been exciting to watch him in the outfield with Esteury Ruiz and Ramón Laureano.

Ultimately, this is a huge indictment of the Olson trade.

It’s unfair for Langeliers’ apple to Olson’s orange – it wasn’t a one-for-one deal – but it’s shaping up that way. Langeliers has the potential to be a star catcher, but Olson is already an All-Star and legit proven big leaguer with a Gold Glove. He’s turning 29 on Wednesday still in the midst of his prime. That’s a big resume for anyone to live up to.

The other two players in the deal, minor league right-handers Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes, didn’t put up numbers that suggest they’ll be on the fast track to The Show any time soon. Cusick, a 2021 first-rounder, posted a 7.90 ERA in 12 games with Double-A Midland last year. Joey Estes, a 2019 16th-round pick, compiled a 4.55 ERA in 20 starts for High-A Lansing. 

And, uh, don’t look now, but Olson is the MLB leader in spring training home runs (eight) and RBI (18) with one day left of exhibition action. It’s only the Grapefruit League, but still. Sheesh.

Olson is making $21 million this year, which is exorbitant for Oakland, but seems fair for a guy of his skill. Olson’s salary bumps up to $22 million a year next season, where it will stay flat until 2029. That contract is looking pretty good right now for his hometown Braves.

Not to mention the A’s reportedly made an estimated $29.2 million in profits last year, according to a recent report from Forbes. (Note: It was originally reported as a $62.2 million profit but has since been updated).

We’ve beaten the drum about John Fisher’s lack of spending as owner, but trades are looking like salary dump/prospect roulette right now. Pache joins southpaw Zach Logue – acquired in the Matt Chapman trade from Toronto – as a player who didn’t last to his second season with the A’s since last year’s overhaul.

No pressure, Shea Langeliers.