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January 13, 2016

Transaction Analysis

Rico Suave

by Rian Watt and George Bissell

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COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed OF-L Gerardo Parra to a three-year, $27.5 million contract, with an option for a fourth year. [1/12]

On the 13th of May, back in 2009, Gerardo Parra started his day in Mobile, Alabama. His Double-A BayBears were scheduled to play against Montgomery that evening—it was to be the third game of a scheduled four-game set—and Parra was carrying a .361/.469/.491 Southern League line into the contest. As it turned out, he’d never see the first pitch that night in Mobile.

That’s because Parra finished his Wednesday 1,600 miles west and just about three degrees north, at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. There, just a few minutes before 7 o’clock local time, he took Reds ace Johnny Cueto deep to right field and became in the process only the 100th player in big-league history to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat.

And today, Parra signed a contract, for many millions of dollars, to play big-league baseball for the Colorado Rockies.

I point all this out because this is a deeply meaningful day in Gerardo Parra’s life. As a 17-year-old Venezuelan kid in 2004, he signed on with the Diamondbacks for a couple of thousand bucks and chased a dream across the Caribbean. And today, for the first time since, he’s been able to make a positive choice about the place he’ll call home, and secure generational wealth for his family in the process.

There are other considerations worth talking about with respect to this deal, of course, like “Should the Rockies have signed it at all?” and “Will Gerardo Parra be any good at playing baseball in three years?” We’ll get to those shortly, but it’s important to recognize up front that they’re secondary to the A-storyline here, which is that this day is the day one man made it against tremendous odds.

So, the B-storyline: did the Rockies do something smart this week? I suppose that sort of depends on what happens next. As it stands, the Rockies have a full 40-man roster, four starting outfielders (Parra, plus Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Corey Dickerson), and an outfield at Coors Field that—absent a rule change—still only has space for three players at any given moment. That’s led many reasonable observers to conclude that a trade is imminent, probably centered around Gonzalez or Blackmon.

I tend to agree. And if that’s indeed what goes down—if Gonzalez or Blackmon are traded for young, inexpensive pitching—then I think this is a pretty solid deal for the Rockies. Parra is projected for a little bit over four WARP over the next three years, which is a perfectly reasonable number for a starter on a rebuilding team, even if it’s a little less than you’d want on a contender.

And if you expect part of Parra’s salary to be covered by the savings that’ll be returned when Blackmon or Gonzalez are traded for a cheaper pitcher (Gonzalez is owed $17 million in 2016; Blackmon is in his first year of arbitration, and will make a few million), the deal looks even better still. If Parra is good, the team can trade him in a few years for more prospects. If he’s bad, $27 million isn’t that much money in today’s game and, in that event, much of it can be covered by trade.

That’s all if the Rockies make a trade. If they don’t…well, then, I’m not sure what they’re up to here. They didn’t have to sign Parra in order to trade an outfielder—in fact, there’s a case that they’d have been better off trading both Gonzalez and Blackmon, not signing a replacement, and running a truly terrible outfield out there for a few years in search of a few high draft picks.

I suppose the team decided that they couldn’t do that to their fans. Hence, Parra. But if you are one of those aforementioned fans, you’d better hope that your team has a trade lined up, and that it goes down soon. Parra’s acquisition means every team in baseball now knows that the Rockies pretty much have to trade an outfielder (unless they threaten to move Dickerson to first, which is only semi-plausible, as he’s never played there before). That’ll give potential partners that much more leverage in negotiations, and drive down the Rockies’ return. And so we wait and see. In the interim, take a moment to think about Gerardo Parra’s journey. Today, he’s made it. —Rian Watt

Fantasy Impact

Gerardo Parra

The 28-year-old has spent his entire career in the hitter-friendly ballparks of Arizona, Milwaukee and Baltimore, but even that might not be enough to prepare him for the surreal Coors Field experience. Parra blossomed into a relevant standard mixed-league option (earning $18 and finishing as a top-30 outfielder) last season, hitting .291/.328/.452 with a career-high 14 home runs, 14 stolen bases, 83 runs scored and 51 RBI in 589 plate appearances.

Despite delivering a breakthrough campaign, fantasy owners have been hesitant to invest anything more than a late round pick on Parra, according to early NFBC average draft position data. With the move to Colorado, the Venezuelan native’s fantasy stock will rise exponentially if he secures everyday at-bats in 2016.

Currently, the Rockies' gluttonous outfield depth is blocking Parra’s path to a starting job. Unless one (or more) of Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson are dealt before Opening Day, Parra would be relegated to a much less valuable fourth-outfielder role. It’s highly unlikely that Colorado enters spring training with all four outfielders still on the roster, but given their history, it’s impossible to truly rule anything out with this franchise.

Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson

Given Gonzalez hefty contract, it’s far more likely that either Blackmon or Dickerson, who both command far less financially from a potential trade suitor, will be traded after the signing of Parra. Needless to say, both outfielders fantasy stock would take a substantial hit moving away from the launching pad in Colorado. Even the most ardent Blackmon or Dickerson supporters will acknowledge the legitimate concerns regarding their statistical output away from Coors Field over the course of their careers. The numbers don’t lie.

Blackmon

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

BABIP

Home

848

.334

.386

.501

.363

Road

816

.241

.283

.370

.279

Dickerson

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

BABIP

Home

442

.355

.410

.675

.388

Road

483

.249

.286

.410

.307

Regardless of where either Blackmon or Dickerson (or both) end up being traded, they won’t immediately morph into Allen Craig. The concerns are even less for Blackmon, whose lofty stolen base totals offer a much higher floor than Dickerson, who derives a majority of his fantasy value from his tremendous power. Still, it’s worthwhile to highlight just how much Coors Field has inflated their overall statistics (especially Dickerson) and how much losing that generous hitting environment would affect them. If for some bizarre reason the Rockies decide to keep all four outfielders, Parra would be the odd man out. The probability of this occurring is almost non-existent, but then again how many analysts pegged Parra as a potential fit for Colorado? —George Bissell


Rian Watt is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rian's other articles. You can contact Rian by clicking here
George Bissell is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see George's other articles. You can contact George by clicking here

Related Content:  Gerardo Parra,  Rockies

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