Yesterday, in a surprise move, the Colorado Rockies signed outfielder Gerardo Parra to a three-year deal worth $26 million, with a club option for a fourth season. The move adds another strange wrinkle in an odd free-agent market for outfielders this winter, with two of the best bats available — Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton — still available.
The move also leaves the Rockies in a weird spot. The team now has four left-handed hitting outfielders more than capable of starting, with just three spots to make that happen. Combine that with at least three bench bats that can/will play at least a chunk of outfield innings in Brandon Barnes, Kyle Parker, and Ben Paulsen, and that's seven guys competing for a limited number of at-bats.
Throw those three bench guys out of it and the Rockies are still way too crowded in the outfield, though. Look at these blind stat lines and try to decide who becomes the odd man out:
Player A: .299/.345/.534 125 OPS+
Player B: .290/.347/.524 121 OPS+
Player C: .288/.336/.437 99 OPS+
Player D: .277/.326/.404 97 OPS+
Player D should be the one to go, right? That's not going to happen; that's the guy we just signed, and he's making $8 million next year.
Player C is your next choice, right? That's Blackmon, but he adds 84 career stolen bases including a 43-steal season last year, which makes him an intriguing lead-off option in a lineup that doesn't offer a lot of alternatives at the top of the order.
Players A and B are Corey Dickerson and Carlos Gonzalez, two players who, barring injury, shouldn't see much of the bench on any team in the league. The Rockies aren't special enough to think they can have either of those guys taking fewer than 500 plate appearances so long as they're healthy, anyways.
So the question has now turned to which player the Rockies have to trade to make this work. Parra is making too much money on a non-contending team to be a bench outfielder, and the club wouldn't have signed him to a free-agent deal to let him get second-rate at-bats all year. That's the long and short of it. So who do the Rockies move? They can't start four outfielders, which as best I can tell is against the rules (unless they didn't want to have a shortstop anymore, which ... actually, that isn't a bad idea).
But what if I told you they could start four outfielders? What if I told you we could fashion a way they could start any number of outfielders?
Picture this: a million-man outfield. So many outfielders that a fly ball never drops. No ball ever reaches the gap.
"How does this work," you are probably asking, "are you suggesting we changed the sacred rules of baseball?"
No, I'm not. I could never suggest such a thing.
Just imagine in your mind an outfield that has every inch covered. An outfield so well covered you'd think the players were E! and the field was a Kardashian wedding. Who needs good pitching when no ball ever drops? BABIP levels will drop below .200 in Colorado as the team begins an era of unquestioned dominance with somewhere around 80 home wins every summer.
Folks, this plan could very well fix the Rockies.
Let's put this in picture form. Here is an outfield diagram with red dots marking normal outfield positioning:
And here is my outfield idea, diagrammed with red marking coverage:
How good does that look? It's simple, right? So simple, no one would expect it.
Now for the guts of my plan — the real meat and potatoes of what I hope to accomplish. For the Rockies to make this work, they need to become masters of illusion, so good that they can deceive even the slowest of slow motion camera replays: they need trap doors.
An elaborate trap door system that alerts underground backup outfielders of a ball flying to their area, combined with a simple sleight of hand trick, will allow any number of outfielders to cover the territory needed while simultaneously keeping fans, opposing teams, and television cameras unaware of the elaborate scheme.
Here is my extremely good and intelligently created diagram of how to accomplish this:
A trap door system like this every 50 feet or so will allow the Rockies to not only save the legs of their best-hitting outfielders, but also win countless games and finally seal the deal on the long and arduous task of developing good pitchers in Denver.
The ramp allows for players to get a running start so they can immediately get onto the field and begin tracking the fly ball they've been called to catch. With every player wearing the same number as the outfielder who is starting that day, and with the help of major Hollywood makeup studios, we can fool any camera into believing it was Carlos Gonzalez or Corey Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon who tracked down that ball that looked to be a for-sure gapper.
If Hollywood can make Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like a young, weird-looking Bruce Willis, they can definitely make anyone look like anyone. Make backup outfielder Ben Paulsen resemble starting left fielder Corey Dickerson? Not a problem, folks, not a problem — not even with a handsome canvas like Kyle Parker.
Bluntly, this makes trading an outfielder irrelevant, and acquiring pitching no longer needed.
"OK," you say, "but what about the road games?"
You silly person. Who cares? The Rockies could lose more than 60 times on the road and still win at least 90 games with this plan! They'd be playoff contenders every season anyway, and with the outfield defense set to "impenetrable," they'd finally be able to convince real, live pitchers to play in Denver for a good team. The plan sets in motion an unquestionable era of dominance for the Rockies, finally giving the fans what they've always wanted: a winner.
Dick Monfort, if you're reading this, fire off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll be happy to work with you to get this plan off the ground and in place ahead of Opening Day 2016.