Gerardo Parra A Logical Candidate for Trade, Not Extension


The first domino of the great 2015 Milwaukee Brewers’ sell-off fell on Thursday, as GM Doug Melvin shipped third baseman Aramis Ramirez back to the place where his career began, Pittsburgh, in exchange for minor league reliever Yhonathan Barrios. Most fans expect more deals to happen between now and the non-waiver deadline on July 31st, and the Brewers have several movable pieces they can use to help give their rapidly improving farm system a boost.

One player who is arguably a no-brainer to be dealt is outfielder Gerardo Parra. The Brewers acquired Parra in a deadline deal in 2014, sending Anthony Banda and Mitch Haniger to the Diamondbacks in exchange for the two-time Gold Glover. The Brewers entered the season with Parra slated to be their fourth outfielder, but things don’t always work out as planned. Early season injuries to all three regular outfielders has forced Parra into everyday action for most of the season, and he has responded by producing the best offensive season of his career to this point. Parra carried a career .721 OPS into this season, but so far has slashed an incredible .319/.357/.512 with 36 extra base hits in 326 plate appearances. His .869 OPS is not only far and away his career high, but also ranks him 36% better than league average. Parra has shown excellent versatility by playing all three outfield positions and though defensive metrics are down on his work in center and left, the 28 year old has solid numbers in right field and comes with an excellent defensive reputation. Parra’s 1.7 rWAR tie him with Carlos Gomez for third best on the Brewers.

This strong production has led to plenty of trade interest in the lefty swinging Parra (a free agent at season’s end), including a near trade to the Mets that ended up falling through. However, Parra has apparently hoodwinked a rather large segment of the fanbase into thinking that the Brewers should hold on to him and work to extend his contract. The idea would be to use the 28 year old as the near term starting option in outfield, which would allow the Brewers to deal another outfielder instead. I spoke in regards to this on 105.7 FM the fan in Milwaukee earlier this week, and I’m here to tell you that it would be incredibly misguided for Milwaukee to hold on to Parra – and a fool’s errand to extend his contract in Milwaukee.

By all accounts, Parra is having a career year at the plate. His batting average, slugging percentage, and isolated power marks are far and away career highs, while his on base percentage is the highest it’s been since 2011. Parra has received a large boost from a .360 BABIP, 34 points higher than his career average, and his HR/FB ratio and hard hit rates are also well above career norms. In six seasons prior to 2015, Parra had never posted an OPS higher than .784, and had hit at a below league-average level in five of those seasons. While he may be able to continue his hot streak for a little while longer, it’s likely only a matter of time that he regresses back to resembling the player he was through more than 3,000 plate appearances prior to this season. His walk rate of 5.2% is the lowest since his rookie season of 2009, and he is actually swinging at a greater rate of pitches than any season of his career (53%) while making the least amount of contact (81.6%) he has since 2012.

That’s why it makes the most sense to move Parra right now, as his value will never be higher. With his outstanding first half numbers and versatility in the outfield, Gerardo has increased his stock since he came to Milwaukee, putting the Brewers in line for a return even stronger than the two prospects they gave up to get him. While he still won’t garner a team’s top prospects, Parra should return at least one or two useful pieces for the future, which is what Milwaukee’s focus needs to be on: the future. Doug Melvin has been vocal about the team’s need to get a return for their free agents, and since Parra won’t be a qualifying offer candidate at season’s end when he hits free agency, a trade is the only option that makes sense.

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To extend Gerardo Parra would not be at all sensible for a small market team that is about to embark on some level of rebuild. Nick Markakis‘ four year, $44 mil contract from Atlanta last season established a new baseline for decent hitting lefty outfielders with good defensive reputations, and Parra will be three years younger than Markakis was when he hit free agency last season. Parra is also having a much better walk year than Markakis did in his final season in Baltimore (though Markakis has been a slightly better hitter for his career), and is setting himself up for quite the nice payday. I would conjecture that Parra’s camp wouldn’t have a hard time finding a deal a four or five year deal worth somewhere between $10-$12 mil per season on the open market this winter.

At this point, the Brewers should be looking at ways of saving money to invest in young talent, not offering it to a player that hasn’t been anything more than a slick fielding fourth outfielder in six seasons prior to 2015. Outfield is also a position of excellent depth throughout the Brewers’ system: Kyle Wren (AAA), Tyrone Taylor (AA), Michael Reed (AA), Victor Roache (AA), and Clint Coulter (A+) are all ranked among the Brewers’ top 30 prospects by and figure to be battling each other for big league time over the next few seasons. Blocking their paths to the big leagues by extending Parra would be the antithesis of the idea of a “complete rebuild” that many have been clamouring for.

With four seasons of club control remaining and an above average right handed bat, Khris Davis is the near term solution in left field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

At the major league level, Ryan Braun and his big contract will be difficult for the Brewers to move, while Khris Davis is under team control for another four seasons after this. Davis is greatly under appreciated by a lot of fans in Milwaukee despite having already shown the ability to be a solid contributor in left field. What he lacks in arm strength he makes up for with good route-running, above average speed, and a right handed power bat that has been 17% better than league average in terms of OPS over his three year career. Parra’s “breakout” campaign aside, the 27 year old Davis is the much more sensible (and affordable) option for the Brewers in left field going forward.

Gerardo Parra has had a nice run in Milwaukee, but you’d be wrong to think that it’s not coming to an end sometime in the next week. A free agent at the end of the season, the price of Parra’s services just don’t make sense for a Brewers team that doesn’t figure to contend for the next couple of seasons. Currently in the midst of a career year, it is paramount for the Brewers to move Parra right now while he is at maximum value. Several teams have come knocking, and it’s now only a matter of time until Gerardo Parra is hugging his teammates goodbye.

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