The Athletics will not carry Cristian Pache on the team’s Opening Day roster, manager Mark Kotsay announced late last night (link via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle). Because he’s out of minor league options, Pache will need to be traded or placed on outright waivers. The A’s will likely designate him for assignment prior to Opening Day, which would remove Pache from the 40-man roster and buy them a few days to explore possible trades. Outfielders Brent Rooker and Conner Capel will be on the roster, Kotsay added.
Effectively moving on from Pache after one year in the organization is a clearly suboptimal outcome for the A’s, who acquired the slick-fielding center fielder as one of the main pieces (alongside headliner Shea Langeliers) in the trade that sent Matt Olson to Atlanta. The 24-year-old appeared in 91 games for the A’s last year but posted an anemic .166/.218/.241 batting line through 260 plate appearances, exhausting his final minor league option year in the process. Things didn’t go much better in Triple-A, evidenced by a tepid .248/.298/.389 slash (68 wRC+) in an extremely hitter-friendly Las Vegas environment.
That lack of minor league options, lack of production, and the Athletics’ offseason acquisition of speedster Esteury Ruiz sealed Pache’s fate, it seems. Pache has had a productive showing in spring training, hitting .302/.362/.419 in 47 plate appearances, but the A’s already informed Ruiz last week that he’ll make the roster. It’s possible they’re confident in their ability to deal Pache for a return of modest value, but if the eventual transaction is a waiver placement, it’ll be a rather damning outcome for the team, given that Pache was a pivotal part of the prospect return in the A’s latest fire sale.
Pache is still just 24 years old, and he remains an elite defender (5 Defensive Runs Saved, 8 Outs Above Average in just 646 innings in 2022). As recently as the 2020-21 offseason he was considered among the 20 best prospects in the sport. However, his bat hasn’t developed at all, leaving the A’s in a tough spot this spring. The dilemma wasn’t exactly unforeseeable, though, given Pache’s prior struggles in Atlanta and the fact that he had only one option year remaining at the time of the trade.
Kotsay candidly acknowledged back in February that Pache could be showcasing himself for the other 29 teams in baseball this spring, and it appears that’s indeed been the case. The best-case scenario for the A’s would be to find a trade partner, and Kotsay indicated to Kawahara last night that the front office is exploring the possibility. Speculatively speaking, both the Rockies and Marlins have been in search of help at in center for awhile now, though Miami moved Jazz Chisholm Jr. to the outfield this year in hopes of patching that longstanding need. Rebuilding clubs with injured center fielders like the Royals (Drew Waters) and Reds (Nick Senzel) are also logical fits. It’s also possible certain contending clubs could look at Pache’s glove and see him as a valuable fourth outfielder, even if the bat never comes around.
As far as Oakland is concerned, it seems clear now that Ruiz will get the everyday nod in center field, while Ramon Laureano lines up in right field. The left-handed-hitting Capel and right-handed-hitting Rooker could form a platoon in left field, and many of Oakland’s infielders (Tony Kemp, Seth Brown, Aledmys Diaz) have experience in the outfield as well.