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Colorado Rockies free agency rumors: Would Gerardo Parra even fit in Denver?

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The Colorado Rockies are said to be in "serious" pursuit of the free agent outfielder, but does this make any sense ahead of the 2016 season?

The Rockies are a "serious pursuer" of Gerardo Parra, apparently.
The Rockies are a "serious pursuer" of Gerardo Parra, apparently.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

By way of CBS Sports' Jon Heyman on Thursday, we learned the Colorado Rockies are considered "serious" contenders to sign outfielder Gerardo Parra, last a member of the Baltimore Orioles. It's interesting the Rockies are tied to a free agent outfielder considering they have a surplus already, and rumors have been swirling around Coors Field about when the club will trade one of Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, or Corey Dickerson.

Nevertheless, here we are: the Rockies are a strong enough contender to land the services of Parra that Heyman is comfortable going on record naming them as a "serious pursuer," and a dark horse for the free agent. But is that a good fit? What would it take to get Parra to Denver — and to have his acquisition make sense for the Rockies?

Profiling Gerardo Parra, the outfielder

Parra hit .291/.328/.452 in 155 games in 2015 split between the Orioles and Brewers, and he is a career .277/.326/.404 hitter in 988 games. He's had success in his career against the Rockies, and at Coors Field, and considering his years spent in Arizona he's familiar with and comfortable playing in the National League West.

Not only is Parra productive at the plate, he also has a reputation as an elite outfielder. He's won two Gold Gloves in his career, in left field in 2011 and right field in 2013, which was at the time the best defensive season ever recorded by FanGraphs. Both Gold Gloves came as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, where Parra's career began before moving on to the Brewers and then, briefly, Baltimore.

To be fair, a concern with Parra moving forward is tied to his defensive stats from last year. He logged a negative ultimate zone rating at all three outfield spots in 2015, which marked the first time he has done that in his career. It's something that any potential suitor will take into account; the question is whether 2015 was an outlier, or if this is going to be the new normal for the 28-year-old.

At the very least, it might be wise for the Rockies to use Parra in the corner outfield spots should they sign him, since he logged a -4.4 UZR in 65 innings in center field in 2014 before recording a -10.0 UZR at the position in 2015. While '15 as a whole might be a negative outlier for a strong defender, two consecutive years of negative UZR in center field may mean Parra's days roaming that expanse ought to be limited going forward.

As for the corner spots, his defense is declining there as well, but not quite to the same extent. FanGraphs published an excellent defensive breakdown of Parra that does a good job examining his decline. He should still be league average in a corner outfield position going forward, but center field — especially covering an area like that at Coors Field — might be beyond him.

Knowing that, does it make more sense for the Rockies to acquire Parra only if they trade Dickerson or Gonzalez, rather than Blackmon? Do the Rockies take a chance on the left-handed hitter and play him out of position in center after a Blackmon trade, since 2016 doesn't matter anyways? Or — mystifyingly — would the Rockies add Parra as a fourth outfielder and not trade any of the other three? Even more than that, do the Rockies even want another left-handed hitter knowing how much they already struggle against southpaw starters?

What it will take to get Parra to Denver

If the Rockies really do want to sign Parra, MLB Trade Rumors argues it will take three years and $27 million to win his services. This seems a very reasonable contract for the outfielder, and should be doable for a Rockies squad that has only $53 million plus arbitration salaries in commitments for 2017. If the club is concerned about having too much salary committed in 2016, you could even backload the contract: think something like $5MM in '16, $10MM in '17 and $12MM in '18. Of course, the team that wins his services may well be paying more than that anyways if we've learned anything from the general trend of contracts in professional baseball.

Parra is most definitely an everyday outfielder, and the biggest roadblock to signing him would be the presence of Carlos Gonzalez, Blackmon and Dickerson. For a Parra signing to make sense, then, the Rockies need to move one (or more) of the three, preferably, one of Gonzalez or Dickerson in the corners where Parra should be seeing everyday time.

Quite frankly, should the Rockies exchange Blackmon (via trade) for Parra in center field, that would be a poor decision by the club's front office. The free agent would be a solid replacement for either corner outfielder, though, depending on what the Rockies could get on the trade market for CarGo or Dickerson. At the very least, Parra would certainly be an immediate and significant defensive upgrade in left field.

Ideally, of course, it'll take the Rockies moving (at least) one of their outfielders first before they can sign Parra, just in case the trade they are counting on to free up space falls through for one reason or another. In that vein of thinking, then, it's probably wise to see rumors around Parra as a sign the Rockies are closing in on a trade.

Would Parra even succeed in Denver?

In 48 games (42 starts) at Coors Field, Parra has hit .283/.344/.382 with 12 runs batted in and a .725 OPS. I'm not the least bit concerned that Parra could hit at Coors over a larger sample size — or anywhere else in the NL West. In 325 games at Chase Field in Arizona, Parra has hit .288/.340/.428; at Dodger Stadium, he's slashed .279/.335/.412 in 52 games. San Francisco's AT&T Park has been Parra's strongest venue in the division, hitting .291/.346/.392 across 47 games. To be fair, he has struggled a bit in San Diego (but who hasn't?), slashing just .230/.275/.323 in 48 games at Petco Park.

All that's to say you shouldn't worry about Parra's bat, and even with his negative UZR ratings in 2015 you probably ought not worry about his glove in the corner outfield spots, either. Parra is more than capable as an everyday outfielder, and in a vacuum, he'd represent a productive addition to any Major League outfield as a 28-year-old free agent who figures to command a manageable contract on the open market.

The issue, of course, is the Rockies aren't approaching Parra in a vacuum; his free agency, at least regarding Colorado's needs, in inextricably tied to what happens on the trade market over the next several weeks. The Rockies shouldn't even think about signing the free agent outfielder without first completing a trade, and if/when these things happen, the Rox also ought to take into account Parra's position relative to outfielders quickly ascending the minor league system, like David Dahl and Raimel Tapia.

From there, Parra becomes either (a) an interesting trade piece when the Rockies ought to be contending by 2018, or (b) a not overly-expensive everyday player who can help take the Rockies' young up-and-comers to the next level over the next few summers. Depending on the Rockies' other moves across the next couple seasons, of course, either path here could be valid if the club were to acquire the former Diamondback.

Could Parra fit in Denver? Absolutely. Several things need to happen first, though, and the more variables that are involved in any player movement means the less likely a deal gets done. But if the Rockies trade either Cargo or Dickerson, Parra would be a productive and worthwhile option to fill a corner outfield spot. He's probably out of place in Coors' vast center field, and he's not yet to the point in his career where he's only limited to being a fourth outfielder, but as a free agent option after the Rockies make a trade, the club could do quite a bit worse than Gerardo Parra.