It should have been a harmless, uninteresting signing. Before the 2016 season, the Colorado Rockies signed free agent outfielder Gerardo Parra to a three-year, $27 million deal.
Was it a little too much money? Sure, but given the free agent landscape it was nothing appalling. Parra seemed like a safe addition—a move that might be hard to believe given last year's results. But at the time, it was reasonable to view him as a strong veteran presence, a good all-around player and arguably a very good defender.
After a season in which he was one of the worst players in baseball, some people might be inclined to simply think that he's bad. And yet, you find that he is still viewed in certain circles, specifically his locker room, as that same good all-around player the Rockies signed one year ago.
Let’s look at what people are saying about Parra, starting with what they said last winter when the team signed him.
“He told me he wanted to sign Parra and asked me some questions about him, and I told him he’s a professional who knows how to play the game, one that can help us.” Carlos Gonzalez - January 12, 2016
The CarGo endorsement was a big part of the story. This quote also brings up a familiar refrain and one that should come up a lot this year, especially early in the season: Gerardo Parra is a baseball player. He is a professional baseball player. He knows how to play the game. He plays the game the right way. He knows how to play baseball. And so on.
Whatever your feelings on these descriptions, they do seem to play in locker rooms (here's to you, Michael Cuddyer). Parra very well might offer value that we don't see, especially with the younger players on the team.
On the other hand, people often offer these vague compliments when there's nothing more specific to offer about that player and what he's good at.
"You like him...always have. Good player. Good outfielder, good arm, runs well. Gold glove outfielder, can play all three outfield spots. I thought the Cardinals may make a run at him because of his versatility..." - Dan McLaughlin, talking to Rick Horton, Fox Sports Midwest - May 18, 2016
So you're a person who writes about the Rockies, and you're watching a random 2016 regular season game because you're watching Tony Wolters at-bats. Then you hear the Cardinals' announcing crew saying that they thought the Cardinals might sign Gerardo Parra because he’s their kind of player.
Maybe that's good (the “Cardinals way” and all that), and maybe that doesn’t matter. Either way, it shows that at least some people in and around baseball buy into the idea that Gerardo Parra is a professional baseball player, but in the way that it's a compliment and not just stating an objective fact.
"Gerardo Parra is the one who should ride this bull" - somebody, apparently - February 28, 2017
Team building, ya know? I guess all of the area climbing walls and ropes courses around Salt River Fields at Talking Stick were taken.
"Gerardo Parra for president" - the Rockies locker room - April 5, 2016
Baseball players are weird.
"My visual of Gerardo is of a guy who can play all three outfield positions, and we can move him to first base." - Bud Black - February 19, 2017
The word of the day for the 2017 Rockies, each and every day, is versatility. Whether it's rationalizing the decision to sign Ian Desmond or bracing the fan base for that game when Cristhian Adames plays first base, it's all about versatility.
It's also a thing the team likes about Parra, as stated here by his new manager. But that's not necessarily new this spring.
“The fact that he can play first — he’s been a Gold Glove outfielder — makes us more versatile. That’s one of the things that we really try to focus on with our roster.” - Walt Weiss - September 2, 2016
Looking for quotes about a mediocre outfielder can take you down some strangely specific Rockies wormholes. In this case, one finds a nugget that is actually interesting: Jeff Bridich had the organization talking about versatility before this past offseason.
Maybe this means we should have seen the Ian Desmond move coming. In our defense, it was hard to notice the emergence of the versatility talking point through our tears at the end of last season, especially when Parra was playing first base.
"The ankle hurt me a lot. But I feel good now—100 percent. I feel young and healthy." - Gerardo Parra - February 19, 2017
If you still believe Parra can be a positive contributor, this might be your best argument. That said, I will need you to explain to me what a balky ankle had to do with him swinging at everything.
"Found in related search 'colorado rockies best players'" - Google - March 26, 2017
Because Google's got jokes about my search for 'gerardo parra 2016 splits.'
"This guy had a good offseason. He trained great. Body-wise, he feels good. I see a focus in this guy to let everybody know that he's a player, regardless of anybody else in or around our team." - Bud Black - March 5, 2017
Maybe we should just stop fighting it.
"He's hitting the ball to all fields, and the ball is coming off hot. He's in a good spot. Just talking to the guys last year, they said he's a completely different looking player." - Bud Black - March 19, 2017
Yep. We better be prepared for a healthy dose of Gerardo Parra, versatile professional baseball player, in 2017.