Rockies Acquire Future Pitcher by Signing Gerardo Parra

All along, the thought’s been that the Colorado Rockies were pretty likely to trade one of their three left-handed hitting outfielders before the start of the regular season. So naturally, they kept them all and then went out and signed another.

It won’t stay like this for long. The Rockies agreed to terms with Gerardo Parra on Tuesday afternoon on a three-year deal worth $27.5 million. Chris Cotillo reports a fourth-year option is included for $12 million. The contract looks fine; our crowdsourcing project pegged Parra for a three-year deal between $24-27 million, and that’s essentially what he received. What’s interesting is that Parra joins Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon in a suddenly crowded and similarly-skilled outfield:

2016 Projections for Rockies Outfielders
Player PA AVG OBP SLG ISO wRC+ HR SB Def WAR WAR/600
Carlos Gonzalez 529 .276 .336 .511 .235 111 27 4 -7.8 1.7 1.9
Charlie Blackmon 654 .279 .334 .430 .151 92 16 33 -6.4 1.0 0.9
Corey Dickerson 524 .293 .339 .514 .221 114 23 7 -10.4 1.5 1.7
Gerardo Parra 564 .291 .336 .436 .145 93 12 11 -4.5 1.0 1.1
SOURCE: Steamer

At this stage in their respective careers, Gonzalez and Dickerson are near-clones of one another. While Gonzalez has the name recognition, Dickerson is three years younger than Gonzalez and is likely the better hitter. On the other hand, Dickerson is very limited defensively and is coming off an injury-plagued season that featured trips to the disabled list both for plantar fasciitis and a pair of broken ribs. Both struggle mightily against same-handed pitching.

At this stage in their respective careers, Blackmon and Parra are near-clones of one another. Both are roughly league-average hitters who struggle against same-handed pitching. Both can play center field and not be a total disaster, though you’d rather see them in a corner. Parra once graded out as an elite corner outfielder — someone you’d think could transition to center with ease — but there’s more than one reason to believe in the defensive decline portrayed by the metrics over the last couple seasons.

There’s just too much going on here. Something’s got to give. And it might not take long:

Clearly, Parra will be in the fold next year. That’s how free agency works. I could be wrong, but Blackmon seems the least lilely to be moved — he’s the worst of the three incumbent outfielders, meaning probably less in the way of trade interest, and is the only one who can play center field. I’d wager Blackmon will be Colorado’s opening day center fielder next year, with Parra flanking him in right. The question is: who will be playing left?

We’ve covered the skillsets. Whether Dickerson or Gonzalez, the acquiring team can expect a hitter 10-to-20 percent better than league average with numbers inflated by Coors. The acquiring team can also expect some injury risk, and moderate to severe defensive shortcomings. Add it all up, and it’s something like a two-win package. Either one could be a fine addition for a contending ballclub, but it’s important to distance yourself from the superstar reputation Gonzalez once had, or the 40 dingers he slugged last year.

Then, there’s the contracts. Gonzalez is under team control for two more seasons and comes with a substantial price tag of ~$38 million. The Rockies, presumably, would be willing to eat a chunk of this salary if deemed necessary to get the guy they want. Dickerson, on the other hand, is in his final year of pre-arbitration, meaning he’s got another three years of team control after this one. The arbitration years could get pricey, but he’ll still come much cheaper than Gonzalez and with double the years of control. Dickerson is the more valuable asset, and most talks we’ve heard so far surround Gonzalez.

The possibility exists that the Rockies could slide Dickerson over to first base, helping to hide his weak throwing arm and demand less of him physically, but let’s operate under the assumption that the Rockies plan to move one of the left fielders, with CarGo being the more likely trade candidate.

So, what does the market look like? With the Royals, Nationals, and Giants recently addressing their outfield situations, it’s getting slimmer and slimmer by the day. We can break what’s left into tiers:

Badly need outfield help, have expressed interest

  • Orioles
  • White Sox
  • Angels

Not in dire need of outfield help, but have expressed interest

  • Tigers
  • Cardinals

Badly need outfield help, have expressed less interest

  • Indians

There’s three obvious teams, and three less obvious teams, but it’s also important to remember that Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler still exist on the outfield market, and someone is going to deplete their remaining resources on Chris Davis. One of the non-obvious teams is going to end up adding a quality outfielder this offseason.

Now, what the Rockies will be searching for, almost certainly, is pitching. They’re set at the premium infield positions, and it’s hard to imagine they’d move Gonzalez or Dickerson in a trade where the main piece coming back was a first baseman. It’s possible that the right catcher could serve as a centerpiece, but it’s safe to assume pitching is what the Rockies are after. It’s just about impossible to convince a free agent pitcher worth having to come to Colorado, so instead, the plan appears to be “acquire the pitchers who don’t have a choice.”

Starting with the Orioles, since they’re already the most rumored destination, I’ll say that if it’s a pitcher the Rockies are looking for, I’m struggling to see an immediate fit. Baltimore’s rotation depth is frighteningly thin to begin with, and moving someone like Kevin Gausman would leave the Orioles with Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Miguel Gonzalez at the top, followed by ??? and ??? to round things out. After Gausman, the Rockies would be interested in Dylan Bundy or Hunter Harvey, but not only do all of these guys feel like hefty prices to pay for CarGo, but would all strike me as selling low for Baltimore.

The White Sox are sure to be linked to a Rockies outfielder eventually, but considering they already traded away Frankie Montas and are also already hurting for pitching depth, I’m again struggling to see an easy fit here if the Rockies are indeed after pitching. In addition, part of the reason why the White Sox are seeking an outfielder is to improve their shoddy defense, and what the Rockies could offer won’t help much in that department. Like the Orioles, the White Sox may be better positioned to spend for outfield help rather than trade for it.

How about the Angels? Between Hector Santiago, Nick Tropeano and Tyler Skaggs, it feels like a match could be made, and the Angels are hesitant to spend big money in free agency on someone like Upton or Cespedes. If I was a betting man, which I am, just not in this particular scenario, I’d have my money on CarGo suiting up alongside Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun in Los Angeles next season.

But I also wouldn’t rule out a team like the Indians, who have dealt with Colorado in the past. The price tag for Gonzalez could complicate things, but in the event of a Dickerson deal, the Indians could interest the Rockies with groundballers like Rob Kaminsky and Cody Anderson or even the divisive Trevor Bauer, and Roberto Perez could help Colorado’s pitching staff by proxy. St. Louis has enough young pitching talent that’s close to Major League ready to get a deal done, and Matt Boyd could be a name to start a deal with in Detroit.

The interesting part of this deal isn’t as much about Parra’s fit in Coors, though I am intrigued to see how his newer pull-heavy, fly ball-oriented approach translates to Colorado. The interesting part is how it affects an already crowded outfield market. Looking at the number of outfielders left, and the number of teams who need an outfielder left, the room resembles a game of musical chairs. Only difference is, everyone’s got to find a chair eventually.





August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.

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baroque6
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baroque6

Any chance the talkes between the O’s and Rockies involve Caleb Joseph? Having Wieters for 2016, Baltimore would surely rather part with him than Gasman, Bundy, or Harvey.