Handicapping the Gerardo Parra Sweepstakes

For the armchair general manager aspiring to a complete a total rebuild, this Brewers’ midseason trading period has been an endless parade of teasing and frustration. The first official white flag of 2015 was arguably flown on May 3, when the Brewers fired manager Ron Roenicke amidst a putrid 7-18 start. Almost immediately, the speculation surrounding the team was that the next logical step would be a full retooling, with no stone left unturned.

Keeping that date and the trade deadline in mind, the Brewers have had a full three months to sell this year. But up to this point, management has only managed to export the retiring Aramis Ramirez in exchange for a relief-arm lottery ticket. The rebuild that was expected never came. In fact, calling what took place a “remodel” sounds awfully generous. Rather, the Brewers have simply nudged a couch to face a different angle, then called it a day.

And don’t expect any major splashes the rest of the week, either. Our own Derek Harvey speculated just yesterday that, based on past history, the only names with a realistic chance to get moved are Gerardo Parra and Neal Cotts. Of these two, Parra is the more interesting name to discuss by far.

Exactly a year ago, at almost this exact point in the season, the Brewers acquired Parra from Arizona for a modest haul of expendable minor-league talent. The plan was for him to provide outfield depth as the Brewers chased a postseason berth. But nothing ever seems to go according to plan, and Milwaukee squandered that shot at postseason play in September. To his credit, however, Parra produced a full half-win of value after the trade, and he’s produced almost two more wins to date this year. The decision to bring him back for one more year was a smart one.

This summer, deciding what to do with Parra isn’t so simple. He’s eligible for full-blown free agency, which means he should get more expensive than the $6.4 million he was paid this season. Dexter Fowler and Colby Rasmus are similar outfielders with well-rounded offensive skill sets and the capability to man any outfield position, and they each make approximately $9 million per season. Parra should get about that on the open market — which, unfortunately, means that Milwaukee will get nothing for compensation if he goes, as a qualifying offer would be imprudent.

The Brewers just suffered through an epic September collapse followed by a season that was dead as soon as the snow melted. This off-season, though, the franchise looks to shed between $30 and $50 million in payroll. With no future third baseman, and a pitching staff in tatters, is the right move really to reinvest north of 20 percent of the team’s bankroll back into another outfield option?

Because with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Khris Davis in the fold, the team is better off moving on from Parra. And because of his contract situation, they would be best off doing this quickly — as in, before Friday.

The good news is, right now, the suitors for Parra’s service are plentiful. As we’ve already established, he has the versatility to play all three outfield positions and provides offensive value in multiple ways. To several contending teams, this makes him a veritable knight in shining armor. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman has identified four teams, in particular, who have reached out to the Brewers to express their interest in Parra.

But even among these interested parties, not all of the destinations make sense.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

At one point, the Angels were interested in acquiring Parra. Since that point, however, they’ve added Shane Victorino, David DeJesus, and David Murphy. Even without Parra, that’s an overcrowded outfield. They’re still on the list, I guess, but the only way they’ll trade for Parra is if more than one of their new acquisitions succumbs to a season-ending injury in the next few days. Don’t hold your breath.

Had the Angels made a play for Parra, a potential price would have been 24-year-old third baseman Kyle Kubitza. Kubitza possesses a profile that should be familiar to Brewer fans who remember Russell Branyan — all the power in the world, a very limited ability to translate that power to in-game success thanks to frequent swings and misses, and defensive skills that can never quite reach the level of “average.” It’s less than the Brewers could concievably get elsewhere, and it’s also far more than the Angels paid for any of their three new outfielders.

The Angels’ only real trade chip is left-hander Sean Newcomb, who is a far better trade chip than the Brewers should be able to acquire for Parra. He’s arguably a top-100 prospect in all of baseball.

In short, this was a deal that never would have happened.

3. Mystery Team

Heyman identifies four different teams in the mix, but only three of them are known by name. The fourth team remains unidentified.

Without knowing the identity of the final franchise, it is difficult to say that they rank ahead of any of the teams we do know–except for the Angels. Even before Los Angeles went and traded for three different outfielders, they still held the 28th-best farm system in baseball. Since neither of the two teams ranked below them — Detroit or Miami — are perceived to be buyers at the deadline, we can safely assume that the mystery team has a deeper war chest than the Angels with the ability to outbid them.

The mystery team might be an invention of a team source — a fabrication that was leaked to a reporter in order to drive up the price on Parra. It might be a legitimate trading partner. It might be the Dodgers looking to swap Yasiel Puig for Parra straight up.

Okay, that last one is a definite “no way.” But I think I’ve made my point. Speculating on what might be coming from a team that we can’t identify is frustrating and pointless.

Still, two more named contenders remain, and either one would be an ideal trading partner.

2. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are 49-49, still within reach of a wild card berth. This is despite the fact that their corner outfield spots have put up spotty production, at best. Delmon Young started the season in the starting lineup, but played so poorly the Orioles gave him his outright release. Alejandro de Aza, too, was let go for no compensation. David Lough has been a sub-replacement-level player — though unlike Young and de Aza, he remains on the roster. Travis Snider has accumulated over 200 plate appearances in left and has been worth only a tenth of a win. Chris Parmelee and Nolan Reimold have both seen extended playing time in the outfield, and neither one is a particularly good player.

For all of the excitement that players like Manny Machado and Chris Davis can bring to the table, the Orioles outfield — save for Adam Jones — has been terrible. They need someone like Gerardo Parra, and they need him right now.

The Orioles’ 22nd-ranked farm system does not run deep, but still manages to carry an abundance of top-tier potential. Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are both off the table if we’re talking about just Parra — but with two holes in the outfield and two potential aces with which to work, the Orioles may just decide that they want to make a play at both Parra and Carlos Gomez. If so, they’ve got the high-end talent to make such a deal happen.

But even if they decide not to bottom out the farm system and push for this year, the Orioles have a handful of interesting pieces that the Brewers could get for just Parra. Josh Hart is a 20-year-old outfield prospect who has yet to post numbers commensurate with what the scouts say he’s capable, but he struggled through an aggressive full-season assignment in 2014 and has shown notable improvement across the board in 2015. Stephen Tarpley has the potential to start and 2015 has been his best season as a professional. Teenage third baseman Jomar Reyes is a future star, according to some. And players like Christian Walker, Mike Wright, and Mike Yastremski offer safe, low-ceiling alternatives. Either way the Brewers want to go — swing for the fences or just try to make contact — the Orioles can seemingly facilitate it.

1. New York Mets

Nobody expected the Mets to compete; before the season, the National League East was essentially handed to Washington. But a roaring April vaulted the Amazins’ to the division lead, and a precociously good starting rotation has kept them in the hunt — even as Washington has overcome their injury troubles and re-taken the pole position.

Unlike the Orioles, the Mets have a need specifically in center field. Though the corners have been plenty productive thanks to the efforts of Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer, center fielder Juan Lagares has not been a replacement-level player this season. And with the Mets surprisingly in the thick of the playoff race, Lagares — who does not have an extensive track record of success at the major league level–is a prime candidate to get replaced.

The Mets were linked to Carlos Gomez at one point, but have presumably decided to push for the Brewers’ more affordable outfield option in the past couple of days. Parra is not as capable in the field as Gomez, but the overall picture would undoubtedly still be an upgrade over Lagares, who has dealt with nagging injuries all year. While the Mets would have almost certainly been forced to give up young, potential impact players in a deal for Gomez, Parra should come far more cheaply.

But still, even though the Mets would be paying less, the Brewers would be getting more. New York’s farm system came into this season ranked among the five best in the game. The number of worthwhile players in their system is so much more than anyone else discussed up to this point. Marcos Molina, as one example, would be considered untouchable by some franchises. In New York, the abundance of starting pitching makes Molina one of the most attractive targets to move. Michael Conforto, the latest big-hype rookie to make his debut during 2015, was ranked just ninth on their Top 10 prospects this past winter. If New York wants to, they could trump pretty much any offer that any other interested party throws on the table.

But two things work against the Mets here, and they’re important. First, New York has shown a wariness to pay market value for veteran talent this season. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, their stingy approach to the Aramis Ramirez sale belies a team that is trying to minimize cost and not give up anything that will hurt them down the line. But in this situation, if the Mets try to play hardball, the Brewers have other options — and with Parra’s contract coming to an end, they’ll pursue those options aggressively.


Things may not have gone according to plan. When Milwaukee added Gerardo Parra to the roster a year ago, the front office foresaw him coming off of the bench to contribute to a playoff run. But the change in circumstances means that the Brewers are not a playoff team, and Parra — set to get paid in free agency — is not a good fit for the Milwaukee roster going forward.

So while the Brewers might never get to live out those championship dreams, they can at least make a decent profit as MLB day-traders this time around. Parra was brought in for two fringy minor leaguers a year ago, and he stands to fetch the team something far more valuable in the next couple of days.

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