For at least a few paragraphs today, let's forget that the Colorado Rockies now likely need to trade (at least) one of their current big league outfielders after signing Gerardo Parra to a three-year deal with a club option for a fourth on Tuesday morning.
We've documented what Parra's addition means for the Rockies' current roster, and specifically their outfielders. We've taken on the handful of trade rumors that have swirled all winter in regards to those outfielders. Hopefully those discussions and debates have added value to your understanding of the Rockies' current roster situation.
Now, for a moment, at least in this particular post, let's forget that Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon exist (I know), and evaluate Parra as a baseball player, rather than Parra as the guy who is coming to Colorado to fight for a job with three other starting outfielders, or Parra as the guy who is here to usher in some massive Rockies trade.
Those latter two versions of Parra aren't necessarily wrong, but neither bears much of an impact on the new outfielder that we'll see on the field in 2016, so instead of discussing trade ramifications and roster moves surrounding Parra's arrival, let's instead focus upon what he will and won't do in Denver the next few years.
Scouting Gerardo Parra
Eleven days ago, Cameron Goeldner did a nice job profiling some of Parra's strengths and weaknesses while evaluating whether the outfielder fit with the Rockies. There's no point in going back over his work, but there are a couple of things to note about Parra's career that should matter to Rockies fans.
Significantly, Parra knows the National League, and specifically the NL West, very well; the first five-and-a-half years of his career were spent as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, where the outfielder slashed .274/.326/.395 over 787 games. He also won Gold Gloves in 2011 (left field) and 2013 (right field), and finished eighth — tied with Dexter Fowler — in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009.
He didn't hit many home runs in Arizona (just 39 in 2,910 plate appearances), but he put up nice totals in doubles (142) and walks (196) while only striking out 496 times. (In fact, over his time in the Major Leagues, Parra has only struck out more than 18% of the time once, and that was back at the beginning of his big league career in 2010.)
As we always do with these player profiles, some stats:
|2014||ARI / MIL||150||574||529||64||138||22||4||9||40||32||100||9||7||.261||.308||.369|
|2015||MIL / BAL||155||589||547||83||159||36||5||14||51||28||92||14||4||.291||.328||.452|
Plus, some important peripheral statistics:
|2014||ARI / MIL||5.6||17.4||0.32||.677||.108||.326||.298||84||0.1|
|2015||MIL / BAL||4.8||15.6||0.30||.780||.161||.325||.334||108||0.4|
Obviously, 2014 and 2015 haven't been nearly as rosy for Parra as the early part of his career, but it is important to note that the outfielder has been a July 31 deadline trade piece in each of the last two years, first from Arizona to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014, and then Milwaukee to the Baltimore Orioles in 2015. The aftermath of both trades saw some of his peripheral numbers (walk rates, for one) lose their luster, but in each of the last two years, Parra's offense had waned a bit even before the deadline deals. (Side note: Parra has never really walked at a significant clip, anyways, which unfortunately seems to be a trend among Rockies position players lately.)
Whether Parra's more sluggish recent offensive campaigns are a product of being in an environment other than Arizona — the organization that originally signed him as an amateur free agent from Venezuela back in 2004 — remains to be seen. Obviously, the Rockies hope a move back to the familiar NL West, with Parra joining fellow countryman and very good friend Gonzalez, will be the right fit for the new outfielder.
Parra's best comp on the Rockies
FanGraphs ran a post on Monday which, while correctly noting Parra's addition means the Rockies are soon to be the new owners of one (or two? Or three?) good young pitching prospects, compared the new outfielder most closely to Charlie Blackmon:
At this stage in their respective careers, Blackmon and Parra are near-clones of one another. Both are roughly league-average hitters who struggle against same-handed pitching. Both can play center field and not be a total disaster, though you’d rather see them in a corner.
That's probably a pretty fair assessment, at least in statistical terms. They don't produce on offense or defense in quite the same way, of course (Blackmon has more power than Parra, for one thing), but by the end of the year it's not too much of a stretch to assume they'll provide a team comparable value assuming health and all those other variables.
Does that mean Blackmon will be the outfielder traded, then? Not necessarily! It depends on what the Rockies want, what they are offered by other teams, and how the market unfolds. All this means is, if you're looking for roughly how much value Parra will contribute to the 2016 team, take into account what Blackmon has done over the last few years and safely assume Parra's time in Denver will be more or less similar to that.
At three years and $26 million (for what it's worth, MLB Trade Rumors assumed it'd be three years and $27 million), and the Rockies got a productive outfielder who hasn't yet turned 30 years old and has been extremely healthy over his career for a really, really reasonable rate. I know, I know: excess outfielders and we need pitching prospects and let's trade somebody and blah, blah, blah. You're not wrong to look at the bigger picture! But at least with this one very specific focal point — Parra's value irrespective of what's going on around him — the Rockies did well for themselves.
What to expect in 2016
To begin, you shouldn't expect Parra to play center field in 2016 — and/or if he does, you shouldn't expect as much of him defensively as he's shown in the corner spots in his career. His outfield defense as a whole took a turn for the worst recently, and that certainly may be a problem in Coors Field's vast expanses of outfield territory, but he'll be far better served in the corner positions than center.
Does that mean the Rockies look specifically to move Dickerson or Gonzalez rather than Blackmon, to let Parra play a corner spot and not be left exposed in center field in 2016? Maybe. But it shouldn't be ignored that Parra and CarGo are very good friends from years ago, and I am probably not the only person out there who likes the idea of the two of them playing with each other on the same team, even if it's just for a short time.
Ok, this is where I eschew statistics and logical arguments and common sense and even the greater understanding of the Rockies' need to rebuild to add a total fan-driven, hot take point: I love Parra for this team, only because I loved to hate Parra so much when he was playing against the Rockies for so many years.
Remember when Kenyon Martin played for the Denver Nuggets? If you were a Nuggets fan a few years ago, you should have loved Kenyon Martin, and if you were a fan of any other NBA team, you probably hated his guts. There was just something about the way Kenyon played, that I always remember thinking man, I'm glad this guy's on my team, because if he weren't, I'd hate this guy so much.
It's kind of like that with Parra, in a weird way. I don't mean to imply that Parra is a jerk, or a bush league player, or dirty, or anything like that. All evidence points to him being a great guy, and CarGo spoke incredibly highly of him this week. I just compare Parra to Kenyon to drive home the idea that after years of watching this high energy dude burn the Rockies over and over and over again, it is so nice to have him (still at a productive point in his career!) on the club instead of continuing to kill Colorado from afar. I know, that's totally nonsensical, but alas — 'tis how I feel.
With that, I think Gerardo Parra is going to do well for himself in 2016. He'll fall victim to the casual fan who conflates his presence with the fact that the Rockies didn't go get a Cy Young Award winner (as if that were even possible), but the Venezuelan outfielder is going to be productive, he'll (hopefully) be as maddening to opposing teams as he has been to the Rockies over the years, and the next three summers with him in Denver should be fun. Let's just hope by the end of it all, the Rockies have a winning ball club around him to show for it.