31 July 2015

Parra Is An Improvement, But To What End?

Parra is Back in Orange and Black
As we have mentioned on several occasions, the Orioles are on the edge of playoff contention with a large number of clubs.  Some, like the Blue Jays, have seen their place on the threshold as a time to cash in on their bevy of prospects to improve their chances.  Some, like the Rays, have decided to largely stand pat and see how things roll out.  The Orioles are showing themselves as somewhere in the middle. 

In Gerardo Parra, they have acquired a once shining young player whose defensive acumen and offensive potential made some analysts think he would be the greatest corner outfielder of the 2010s.  His bat stalled out and regressed after a promising 2011 season.  His stellar defense deteriorated in 2014, leading the Diamondbacks to deal him out for two promising, but run-of-the-mill, prospects in Milwaukee's low minors.  A year later, the defense looks worse based on the metrics, but he is having a career offensive year.

The good news is that Parra's defensive free fall appears to be the product of being forced into centerfield a few too many times and Milwaukee's outfield being unable to help cover his fading range.  That can be resolved with the Orioles.  The club has experience protecting a player with fading range.  Adam Jones was often used to shade Nick Markakis to help out with balls ranging into right-center.  Additionally, right field for the Orioles plays somewhat tighter than Milwaukee's stadium, so Parra should be fine as long as he can play the carom.  Of course, this all goes out the window if he is placed in Camden Yards' open left field.

The bad news is that Parra's second breakout offensive season of his career looks to be held up by a lot of smoke and a plethora of mirrors.  He is enjoying a BABIP of .372, which is about 50 points more than his established career average.  He is hitting fly balls at an abnormal pace and his home run per fly ball is about 35% greater than what should be expected from him.  As a lefty in Camden Yards, he should not experience a great free fall, but his offensive performance should be expected to drop significantly.  If he plays right and replaces a left fielder in the lineup, a reduction in performance should still be a net positive.  If he plays left, then it might well be a push.

With all that in mind, what we are looking at is an improvement of zero (if his bat returns to normal and he stands out in left field) or, maybe, 2 wins (if his bat remains hot and his fielding becomes stellar again without negatively impacting the rest of the outfield).  More likely, I think we are in the 0.5 range, which is a value of about 7 MM, which is about what a 45 rated pitcher is worth in the middle of summer.

Zach Davies is a lower second tier prospect in AAA.  He should be a permanent fixture in the Majors next year if everyone accepts that he is a middle reliever.  If the Brewers insist on him being a starter, it will likely take a few years for him to cement himself into a rotation.  Davies has good fastball command, but it is a pitch that sits around 90.  His changeup is solid.  His curve is a bit of a mess, but has seen improvement.  If all those come together, you have the makeup for a fringe mid-rotation arm, which is quite valuable.  However, it is easy to dream on flashes of potential.  More likely, he becomes a fastball/changeup pitcher who has a show me curveball to try to disrupt an at bat.  I have difficult accepting that he will be a meaningful arm in the Majors.

In the end, it is a fair deal.  It is a deal that has a great deal of potential for the Orioles, but a low probability of that potential being reached.  For the Brewers, it helps add another chip to the pile and increase the likelihood of stable of arms in hope that one or two breakout or at least enable the club to stitch together a cheap, effective bullpen.  I think it is difficult for either fan base to be upset with the deal.  That said, I think it is a poor deal for the Orioles only in that it removes another mid-level prospect from one of the most talent poor farm systems in baseball for a two month rental and that it uses a mid-level prospect as a center piece for a mid-level trade instead of using a mid-level prospect as a complementary piece to a deal pinned by an elite prospect (i.e., Gausman, Harvey, Bundy).  I think the deal does little to impact the clubs fortunes in making the playoffs and, probably, does little to impact the talent pool in the minors.  All in all, shrug.


tony2302 said...

the sad thing is is that there are no players in the minors other than the handful that could be considered untouchable to trade. who would want what the Orioles offer for some of the players that were traded this week. to get quality you have to have quality you are willing to part with and the Orioles don't seem to be willing to part with a Bundy or Gausman. so i see this team falling well short of winning the division and IF they make the playoffs i can't see them making it to the World Series. hope i'm wrong but i doubt it.

Anonymous said...

It was a very good trade for the Orioles. Parra is ALOT better than De Aza/Young/Lough/Snider/whomever we had put out there. Just stand pat? This site is so full of negativity I wonder if you guys are really Oriole fans.

Anonymous said...

It is only a good trade for the Orioles if by adding him they make the playoffs, otherwise they ship a viable arm for the sole benefit of paying Parra's salary for 2 months. Judging by how much the Jays and Astros have improved their teams, it's hard to imagine Parra doing much more than enabling the Orioles miss the playoffs by 3 or 4 games as opposed to 5 or 6.

Mike said...

While I do see him falling back down to earth, I still see him as an upgrade from what we previously were throwing out there. The fact that he can hit well enough that he won't be a platoon player will offer some consistency for the lineup as well as the player. While I have no experience personally, it seems to me that it's much more difficult to find consistency at the plate while playing sporadically as opposed to every day.

Jon Shepherd said...

I am glad this site does not come off as fan writing.

Anonymous said...

They should change the name of the team, from the Orioles to the 2 month rentals. This happens every year, and more importantly, the rental players never resign with the Orioles.

Jon Shepherd said...

One thing to consider...how many rentals sign with their new team?

Anonymous said...

Why hate on Rentals? Its a major part of the modern game. Miller was a great pick up last year, and we made it to the ALCS. I don't know what kind of fan you are, but I am the kind of fan that is REALLY happy to see us in the ALCS after 15 years of hardly being able to watch. Our management is a bit conservative, but I think they don't make disastrous decisions either. I think lon g term trading Gausman would have been really un wise. He seems to improve with every start, and he could be a major talent on a SP roster that NEEDS some consistency. Did we want a top starter? yes. Could we have beat out the teams that got cueto and hammels? probably not. so instead we got a guy hitting over 300. I think that's a pretty good consolation prize.

Jon Shepherd said...

I thought I have mentioned it above, but maybe I did not. Rental players may provide minor improvement now in exchange for a player that could be quite valuable and cheap. That really is what it comes down to. Does a club improve enough to make it reasonable to give away potential future value. The Orioles were on the fence there and they decided to jump off slightly in the direction of trying to improve their roster for this year.

It is arguable what kind of pickup Miller was. He did not help the club make the playoffs, but you could argue he helped them in the playoffs. Of course, the difference between a relief pitcher throwing an ERA of 2 or 3 versus an ERA of 3 or 4 may not be all that meaningful. It certainly is arguable and the loss of a potential mid-rotation arm is pretty rough. Eduardo Rodriguez would look good as the Orioles' 5th pitcher next year.

This is not fan writing. If you want that, there are plenty of other sites that provide that. This is analysis in kind with what you see within front offices though we tend to be a bit more mainstream.

Never indicated that any decision they have made is disastrous.

Gausman would have made it possible to be in the discussion for a top prospect.

There is a reason why a fringe second tier prospect secured Parra as was noted in the article above.