"Obviously, Felix has a lot of good qualities, and at his age, even if he was the fifth outfielder, it's hard to paint a scenario where he would've gotten enough at-bats to finish off his development," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Sunday. "Once [Joey] Gathright came, it was going to make it tough."
Gathright, a left-handed-hitting speedster, was a free agent acquired this offseason after he was not offered arbitration by the Kansas City Royals.
"We felt we had a chance to add some pitching here," Hendry said. "You can't have enough people in the mix. The left-hander [Olson] is an interesting guy. He probably was a little quick to the big leagues last year. If he was with us here, he would've been in [Triple-A] Iowa."
Olson, 25, will get some starts this spring and be looked at as possibly handling the open fifth spot in the rotation or could be a swing man with Sean Marshall getting the starting spot.
He is 12-10 with a 2.96 ERA in 71 career Minor League appearances. Last year, he was 9-10 with a 6.65 ERA, and ranked fourth among American League rookies in starts, fifth in wins and innings pitched and sixth with 83 strikeouts.
"We're sorry to have to part with him," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said of Olson. "Obviously, it's not an area that we have a lot of depth in, but we think that may change as the season progresses. It's just a situation where we have to give something up in order to get something we need."
MacPhail, who held a similar position with the Cubs, knows Pie well.
"I've been impressed with him for a long time and I know he has a great work ethic and desire," MacPhail said. "I know he's going to do everything he can to make himself a good Major League player, and it's hard for us to envision having a better defensive outfield."
Just a few hours before the trade was announced, Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita was answering a question from a fan at the Cubs Convention about Pie and how he hadn't progressed. Fleita said he took it personally when a player he scouted and signed was unable to develop as hoped.
"A guy like Felix Pie is like a son to me," Fleita said.
The Cubs did devote a lot of time to Pie. They sent big league hitting coach Gerald Perry to the Dominican Republic twice after the 2007 season to work with the outfielder and this past season, roving hitting instructor Dave Keller joined Pie for an extended period of one-on-one instruction.
"If he went out for 140 games, I would have to think he's a good enough athlete where he would hit better," Hendry said of Pie, who has a career .299 average in the Minor Leagues. "It's hard to paint a scenario where he's going to take at-bats from Milton Bradley, Reed Johnson or [Kosuke] Fukudome."
A large part of the reason the Cubs decided to deal Pie was because the outfielder did not have any options left, and they could not send him to the Minors if he didn't make the team out of Spring Training.
"At this point in his career, he hasn't been able to shorten his swing, and when you play part time it's hard to make the adjustments," Hendry said. "Hopefully, he does better."