The A’s announced a series of roster moves before tonight’s game in Seattle. Right-hander Adrián Martínez and infielder Vimael Machin have been promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas, as previously reported. Oakland also reinstated outfielder Skye Bolt from the 60-day injured list, placed Jed Lowrie on the 10-day IL due to a left shoulder sprain, and optioned center fielder Cristian Pache and starter Adam Oller to Triple-A. Bolt’s activation required a 40-man roster spot, which has been created by designating reliever Adam Kolarek for assignment.
Kolarek has spent the past couple seasons in Oakland. The A’s acquired him from the Dodgers in February 2021, sending infielder Sheldon Neuse the other way. (Oakland has since reacquired Neuse via waivers). Kolarek has bounced on and off the active roster since that point, making 27 combined appearances. He was tagged for ten runs in nine innings last season, and it’s been a similar struggle thus far in 2022.
Through 17 2/3 innings, the southpaw has posted a 4.58 ERA. Kolarek has struck out only 11.4% of batters faced on a 4.7% swinging strike rate, and he’s walked a personal-high 10.1% of opponents. Kolarek has never missed many bats, but he’s seen his average fastball drop from the 91-92 MPH range down to 88.1 MPH this year. The 33-year-old has also allowed eight runs over 12 2/3 frames with Las Vegas during his optional stints.
Those struggles led the A’s to move on, but Kolarek could still hold some appeal to other clubs. The sidearmer has typically been excellent at handling left-handed opponents. For his career, he’s held southpaws to a pitiful .190/.243/.260 line over 277 plate appearances. Right-handers have teed off at a .311/.383/.490 clip, but that kind of situational dominance made him a productive bullpen option in Los Angeles and Tampa Bay earlier in his career. Kolarek also routinely generates ground-balls at a 60% clip or better, and that’s been the case even as his velocity and swing-and-miss have taken a step back in Oakland.
While Kolarek’s time in the organization could be coming to an end, the A’s are surely hopeful Pache will yet emerge as a member of the long-term core. The 23-year-old was one of four players (arguably the headliner) of the Spring Training return from the Braves for Matt Olson. He’s gone on to start 60 of the team’s 72 games in center field, but his first season in green and gold has been a disappointment.
Pache carries just a .159/.203/.224 line across 214 plate appearances. He’s collected only eight extra-base hits while walking at a subpar 5.1% rate and striking out 26.2% of the time. Of the 206 MLB hitters with at least 200 trips to the plate, Pache ranks last with a 24 wRC+ (suggesting he’s been 76 percentage points worse than the league average batter). The non-competitive A’s continued to give him opportunities to get on track offensively, but his woes have spiraled of late. Dating back to the start of June, he’s collected only six hits and three walks over 19 games.
Of course, Pache has long been a glove-first player. He drew top prospect attention during his time in the Atlanta system based largely on the strength of his defense, which most evaluators suggested could be among the league’s best. Pache has lived up to that reputation early in his MLB days. He ranks fourth among outfielders in Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric this season, checking in seven plays better than par. That kind of ability could make Pache a perennial Gold Glove candidate, but he’ll need to hit far better than he has this season if he’s to earn everyday run in the majors.
The Braves had optioned Pache during both the 2020 and ’21 campaigns. Assuming he spends 20+ days in the minors this year, he’ll exhaust his third and final option year. That means the A’s will need to keep him on the active roster next season, assuming they don’t want to make him available to other teams. Needless to say, organizational higher-ups will hope that this latest reboot against upper minors arms will help him take a step forward at the plate. Pache owns a more serviceable .267/.331/.414 line through 458 Triple-A plate appearances; the A’s would be thrilled if he could come anywhere close to that kind of production in the majors given his defensive acumen.
How quickly Pache returns to the big leagues will depend in large part on how he hits in Las Vegas. Getting back at some point this season would have important service time repercussions, as he’s just shy of reaching a full year of big league service. Pache entered the 2022 campaign with 79 days. Players reach a full service year upon accruing 172 days on an MLB roster or injured list, meaning he needs 93 days this season to surpass the one-year mark. Pache has tallied around 84 days in the majors to this point, so he needs about a week and a half more time in the big leagues in 2022 to keep on track towards a post-2027 free agent trajectory.
While Pache tries to find his footing, the A’s figure to turn center field over to Bolt. The 28-year-old hasn’t played in the big leagues this season due to an oblique strain, but he’ll get the nod in center tonight. Bolt has only 37 games of MLB experience under his belt, but he’s out of options and has to remain on the active roster or be designated for assignment now that he’s healthy.