The Diamondbacks Should Keep Parra

Gerardo Parra put together a solid, under the radar season over 141 games in 2011, posting a .340 wOBA and +10 UZR en route to three wins above replacement. He won a Gold Glove flanking Chris Young and Justin Upton and showed some legitimate signs of offensive improvement at just 24 years old.

The Diamondbacks, unsure whether or not the improvements were sustainable, opted to sign Jason Kubel this offseason for at least two years and $16 million. Kubel boasts the opposite set of skills as a decent hitter with a far worse glove. The team has yet to make it known if these two outfielders will platoon, but the more likely scenario has Kubel starting with Parra relegated to fourth outfielder status. Other teams have predictably been inquiring on Parra’s availability as he is now a cheap 25-year old starting outfielder without a guaranteed starting role.

In most cases it makes sense for the team with the supposed logjam to trade the displaced player. He can usually net a decent return and is often worth more to a new employer than as a sub to his current team. In this case, however, the Diamondbacks would be better served by keeping Parra in Arizona. The confluence of his age, abilities and contract status will afford the team another year or two to gauge his ability to start on a full-time basis without really sacrificing anything.

Arguably the most important factor here is salary. Parra made $405,000 in 2010 and $426,000 last season. He isn’t arbitration eligible until 2013 and is under team control until at least 2015. By the time he hits free agency — assuming he isn’t extended beforehand, by the Diamondbacks or someone else — he’ll be entering his age-29 season. Teams don’t simply trade away talented 25 year old players with five more years of team control because they happen to have four outfielders for three spots.

Players traded away when these gluts are formed are typically paid decently and have established some track record of success. Parra is inexpensive, still raw, and is obviously much more valuable with a .330-.340 wOBA than with just fielding skills alone. Given his career .300 wOBA entering last season, it’s easy to see why some teams, the Diamondbacks included, might be leery of his full-time starting prospects this year.

Kubel is only under contract for 2012-13, which is hardly a commitment relative to how long they control Parra’s rights. While Kubel’s signing wasn’t the best decision given Parra’s presence and other available options, the Diamondbacks can start him, or platoon him with Parra for two years, let him walk, and slide Parra in as a starter for three seasons before he hits free agency. The Diamondbacks won’t reap much surplus value at that juncture, as Parra will start to earn salaries more in tune with his worth, but they also aren’t benching a $5 million player right now.

Parra can still produce 1.5+ WAR as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner, defensive replacement and occasional starter this year, as he runs well, has some pop and has the second-highest UZR among National League outfielders over 2010-11. If any of the other three outfielders gets hurt, few teams have a legitimate starter capable of filling in like Parra. Plus, Kirk Gibson is very generous to his bench when it comes to playing time allocation, so there is certainly reason to think Parra will get 300-350 plate appearances without starting. It’s an unfortunate situation for Parra, but the Diamondbacks shouldn’t be in any hurry whatsoever to trade him.

That is, unless they are very bearish on his continued ability to improve, and consider his .340 wOBA last season to be the byproduct of luck and circumstance. There are two sides to his numbers at the plate, and right now it’s difficult to determine the true underlying cause of the improvements.

On one hand, he increased his walk rate from 6% to 9% and simultaneously reduced his strikeout rate from 19% to 16%. On the other hand, he batted eighth and was intentionally walked 16 times. He may be a decent hitter, but pitchers don’t intentionally walk Gerardo Parra other than to face other pitchers.

He was also UBB-IBB’d several more times last season which would reduce his effective on-base percentage. Normalized for the intentional walks, his OBP last season is closer to .330. Intentional walks don’t explain everything, however, as Parra was IBB’d ten times in 2010 and posted a .308 OBP. Six additional intentional walks make a difference, but they aren’t the only reason his walk rate increased that much.

His batting line likely improved due to a more disciplined approach at the plate. He cut back on swings at outside pitches but became more efficient by making more contact with those he did swing at. He also attacked pitches in the zone more frequently and replaced some grounders with line drives, but not so much so to stick out as fluky. Then again, his BABIP also increased from .322 to .342. While he managed a .346 BABIP in 2009, and seems to have the skill-set capable of a mark in that vicinity, there are again reasons to shoot down his improvements as actual, sustainable changes in approach.

If the Diamondbacks truly feel last season was the height of Parra’s career, and they can extract a noteworthy haul for him, trading him makes sense. But right now there is just no way any team can tell what he is going to become.

For that reason, Parra falls into a gray area of trade value, as the attributes that should net the Diamondbacks a solid return — 25 years old, excellent fielder, not even arb-eligible until 2013 — are canceled out by the fear of overpaying for an all-glove, no-bat player that really is best utilized as a fourth outfielder. The acquisition of Kubel won’t help Parra cement himself as a starter this season, but the Diamondbacks shouldn’t budge unless they are absolutely blown away by an offer. They are better with Parra than without him, and it’s doubtful that potential trade suitors would pony up an exciting prospect package even if they viewed him as a full-time starter.



Print This Post



Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Shane
Guest
Shane
4 years 2 months ago

These things work themselves out. 300-350 at bats may be a conservative estimate. Given the lack of production the team got at first last year Kubel may get some time their as his defensive value at first would likely be no worse than what Goldschmidt gives them although in a small sample size “Goldy” hit righties better than lefties. This is just a guess but I am thinking that they signed Kubel knowing they had questions in first and left. Lets see whether Kubel gets some play at first in spring training as this could get Parra more at bats in the outfield. I would not be surprised to see Parra in the range of 500 plate appearances.

Matt
Guest
Matt
4 years 2 months ago

Goldschmidt’s splits for last season was a very small sample. In the minors he destroyed LHP. A platoon at 1b might be worth it.

stan
Guest
stan
4 years 2 months ago

That’s what I’ve been thinking too. You could also argue that Parra is already more valuable than Chris Young in center given that Young has never hit righties all that well and continued that last year. Parra is essentially going to get backup at bats and spot starts at 4 positions with Kubel shifting to first on occasion.

Spike
Guest
Spike
4 years 2 months ago

with all due respect to Seidman, you kinda missed the salient issue on Parra – if another team sees him as a CFer, then they would unlock more value in him than if he were to remain as a corner. For example, the rumor this past w/e was that the Nats wanted him to play CF. Assuming he makes a smooth transition to CF, I think he could end up as a top ten CFer. Unless his bat continues to come a lot farther then staying in a corner is a much different story.

To me, these sorts of position moves (where viable) are the way to unlock value where little may have been previously.

Uli440
Guest
Uli440
4 years 2 months ago

The Diamondbacks need to just cut ties with Parra. He was a good prospect who didn’t pan out, and that’s ok. Because the amount of top prospects whose careers don’t pan out is so high that the number couldn’t even be counted on the hands of the entire Diamondbacks baseball roster.

Dreamin
Guest
Dreamin
4 years 2 months ago

Wait. What?

Stan
Guest
Stan
4 years 2 months ago

Are you out of your mind??????? A golden glove winner that you are only paying $425,000?????? It is a win win to keep him……He has already done more than Upton did in his first 2 years…Plus Upton was and sometimes still is a defensive liability…

DD
Guest
DD
4 years 2 months ago

Parra doesn’t have the skillset to make waves in the arbitration process as well, and assuming the D-backs can keep his ABs down a bit this year, he will likely be an undervalued guy each of the next three years. This adds to the value he can produce and potentially provide in a trade scenario.

Looking for comps, I came across Asdrubal Cabrera, Maicer Izturis, and Howie Kendrick. These players were in the $1.5-$2 mil range in year one, and assuming no performance and playing time improvements, the arb salary for year 2 can land somewhere around $2-$3 mil. Year 3 would be about $5 mil. So basically for 2012-2015, they can have a 4th OFer (assuming no improvements in his skillset) for 4 yrs/$10.5 mil max. Not a bad deal for a manager who likes fungible players on the roster, and a pretty good trade chip.

imstillhungry95
Guest
imstillhungry95
4 years 2 months ago

Is it possible that KT signed Kubel in the knowledge that next year with the realignment, the NL is going to get the DH? That would make the fact a national league team just signed someone who is only real value would come as a DH, and also the fact we had a very serviceable left fielder to begin with, make a lot more sense

Will
Guest
Will
4 years 2 months ago

Is there talk of the NL getting DH soon? As an NL fan, would love to see it.

kick me in the GO NATS
Guest
kick me in the GO NATS
4 years 2 months ago

you and are not a true NL fan. AL baseball is beyond dull. No in game strategy at all!

SeanP
Member
SeanP
4 years 2 months ago

“Teams don’t simply trade away talented 25 year old players with five more years of team control because they happen to have four outfielders for three spots”

You keep saying that they have him for 5 years, but Parra is only under team control for 4 more seasons, right? Unless the Diamondbacks option him down to manipulate his service time, they have him for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Am I missing something here?

shoewizard
Guest
shoewizard
4 years 2 months ago

“”While Kubel’s signing wasn’t the best decision given Parra’s presence and other available options, the Diamondbacks can start him, or platoon him with Parra for two years””

They are both left handed. So thats not a platoon. Parra will be a late inning defensive replacment for Kubel and not get many at bats that way.

If I were Chris Young I’d sure be hoping I got off to a great start, otherwise he will start losing at bats against right handed pitchers to Parra in large clumps.

kick me in the GO NATS
Guest
kick me in the GO NATS
4 years 2 months ago

As a Nats fan, I hope we trade for Parra and stick him in center. Parra would be a more credible CF than Werth. Harper could stay until the all star break in AAA. By then someone from the OF starters and Laroche should be hurt. If not then if we are out of it we can trade laroche for a prospect and move Morse back to firstbase.

Dave
Guest
Dave
4 years 2 months ago

They’d have to get a pretty crazy overpayment on Parra to want to trade him, considering Kubel is injury-prone and I don’t think they have anybody to fill in beyond Gillespie (and I guess Bloomquist). I’m still sour about the whole Kubel thing because I think it was a downgrade that cost the team 2/15. I guess I’m a little placated that Kuroda really was out of reach (signed with the Yankees for less) and the money from Kubel+Saunders couldn’t have been allotted toward him. However I’m still not happy with the Dbacks front office this offseason…they really only needed two things, middle infielders and a back of the rotation starter, every other position was already filled, pending a few re-signings, so why do they go out and get a guy like Kubel when they have a good OF already?

It probably said more about the market than anything but how could a team look at close to 22 million for 2012 (going off of what they’ve given bloomquist, mcdonald, hill, saunders and kubel) and think what they got was good at all?

wpDiscuz