Gerardo Parra has been long been considered one of the top defensive outfielders in all of baseball. A two-time Gold Glove award winner, the soon to be 28 year old has spent the better part of the lasts six seasons roaming the outfield in Arizona before a midseason trade brought him to Milwaukee last season.
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Over 6273.2 major league innings in the outfield, Parra has posted a .982 fielding percentage and has registered 63 outfield assists while starting 13 double plays. Since Parra debuted in 2009, his 61.5 UZR ranks third among all major league outfielders, and his 75 defensive runs saved ranks fourth.
As it stands today, the lefty swinging Parra is ticketed for a spot on the Brewers’ bench as their fourth outfielder. Manager Ron Roenicke has intimated that he would try to look for as much playing time as possible for Parra (who is slated to make $6.2375 mil this season): “(I)f the matchups are good for him, he’s going to be in the game,” Roenicke said Monday. “I’m not waiting for somebody to be tired and has to have a day off, it’s going to be different with him.”
It appears that the Brewers are now thinking outside the box for ways to get Parra more playing time on the field, including trying him out at a new position.
The Brewers have gotten horrendous production from their first baseman over the past two seasons, getting OPS+ marks of 62 and 70 from the position since Corey Hart‘s solid 2012 season. The Brewers acquired Adam Lind early in the offseason hoping that he will be able to fill the void that first base has been in the lineup, however Lind has battled back issues for the past few seasons, and was limited to only 96 games last year. Lind has already experienced issues with his back this spring, though he is slated to make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday.
The Brewers already have several players in camp capable of backing up at first base, including Luis Jimenez, Matt Clark, and Shane Peterson, though that trio has only a combined 138 days of major league service time. Parra, on the other hand, has lengthy track record of being able to produce roughly league average offense, posting a career .274/.326/.395 batting line in 3044 plate appearances, good enough for a career 94 OPS+. The lefty swinging Parra does have a significant platoon split (.758 OPS versus RHP, .587 OPS versus LHP) and he has seen his OPS fall in each season since 2011, leaving me to believe he would be better utilized as a bench player than everyday at this point in his career.
The Brewers have been searching for an answer at first base for a few years now, and they hope they have found one in Adam Lind. Given Lind’s health issues, however, having a solid backup plan would be wise at this point. Gerardo Parra is the most experienced player on the Brewers bench, and given his Gold Glove pedigree in the outfield over his six year career, why not try him out at first base? There is nothing saying that Parra will be able to handle the position (he has never appeared anywhere but the outfield in the majors or minors), but Spring Training is the perfect time to try out things like this. The Brewers have nothing to lose by working the slick fielding lefty out at first base, and Gerardo Parra can only benefit if he is able to add another tool to his bag as he heads into free agency following the 2015 Championship Season.