What does the signing of outfielder Gerardo Parra really mean for the Colorado Rockies? His talents are well-documented — we'll go more in depth about that tomorrow — but the general consensus, of course, is that Parra creates an excess of left-handed outfielders, which means more transactions are likely to follow.
The Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles have both been floated as possible trade partners with varying levels of interest. But where do the Rockies stand right now, with Parra apparently part of the future for the next several seasons?
Parra signed for $26 million over three years, with a $12 million team option for a fourth year. If the Rockies decline that, they'll pay him a $1.5 million buyout. That takes Parra through his age 31 season, giving the Rockies a chance to keep him at 32 if it makes sense. This doesn't break the bank since the Rockies have few long-term commitments, and mid-level contracts tend to provide significant flexibility.
August Fagerstrom of FanGraphs had this to say in late November about Parra's potential signing:
Plenty of teams have been linked to Parra, and understandably so. He's entering just his age-29 season, he's something like a league average hitter who started to lift the ball to the pull field and hit for some power last year, he's played all three outfield positions in the past and, at times, he's played them exceptionally well! He won't kill you on the bases, and he should come reasonably cheap, especially considering his lack of draft pick compensation. Most everyone can afford Parra, and most everyone would have a spot for him on a roster.
If Parra turns out to be a great fit in Denver, the contract could become a steal. You could argue that the money could have gone to international free agent signings, or been thrown at Nolan Arenado or Corey Dickerson for extensions, but all of those things remain possibilities while the Rockies give themselves a look at a very versatile player moving into an era where quantity of talent is going to be very important.
The Rockies have signed superstars to good-but-large contracts before. Amassing an army of reasonable, Parra-like players may be a wise change of direction.
Bobby DeMuro will cover Parra's background in detail tomorrow morning, but I should point out Parra is just two years removed from a 4.5 WAR campaign. He has been an elite defender in the outfield and has two Gold Glove awards to show for it.
It's amusing to think the Rockies might have made this move in part, at least, to force the outfield market along, but I wouldn't give too much credence to this idea. It has also been noted that Parra is close very close friends with Carlos Gonzalez, which rightfully has some wondering if this move means that the Rockies are keeping CarGo, at least for the time being.
Though I imagine CarGo's influence will be overstated, trading him has proven to be difficult. That seems to leave Blackmon and Dickerson as the odd men out if there are to be trades. (And yes, there should be trades.)
If the Rockies do end up trading Dickerson specifically for pitching (Kevin Gausman, please!) Parra is a huge upgrade defensively in left field which is especially important in one of the most difficult and largest outfields in baseball. The value of this should not be understated considering the youth movement the Rockies are about to experience on the mound. Having a strong outfield defense is a smart idea for this kind of money, and if the Rockies can get something good for Dickerson, Parra makes sense to step in without losing too much on-field value.
Moving Blackmon would be a little more hit-or-miss, since reports seem to be mixed about Parra's abilities in center field. But either way, if the Rockies can get some quality prospects for any of those guys, the signing of Parra makes a lot more sense and likely ends up leaving the team with a serviceable player for less money than it would have taken to keep any of the three players currently manning the outfield.
It does seem like the Rockies must make more moves in order for this signing to make sense, but they have by no means handcuffed themselves in either the short or long term. There is always the chance the Rockies could open the season with all four outfielders and get value out of all of them, though that would not seem to be an ideal situation.
Brandon Barnes, Kyle Parker, and Ben Paulsen all got plenty of playing time last season, and we all know that injuries will rear their ugly head. The Rockies need to make another move, but waiting until the trade deadline — especially if that entails holding out for something great — could prove to be the prudent one.
Yes, Colorado now has far too many left-handed outfielders. But another way to look at it is that the Rockies have an excess of valuable assets upon which they can continue to build, or flip for much-needed young players elsewhere on the organizational depth chart.