B.J. has held down centerfield for the last six years for the Rays. That will not be the case in 2013 as Upton departs as a free agent and the Rays need to find an alternate solution. The principal component of Upton’s contribution to the Rays over the years was his ability at the plate and on the basepaths. Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra doesn’t appear to be a good fit based on those criterea because he is not going to step in and provide a stable presence in the lineup or 30 stolen bases. But could Parra be an option if the Rays given that he would allow them to improve in other areas?
Over the past four years, Gerardo Parra has established himself as a starting outfielder for the D-Backs, playing mostly left field but seeing quite a bit of time in center field and right field as well. He has been a decent all-around player, posting a .280/.332/.400 line, a 93 OPS+, with a little power (8 homers is his career-high), a little speed (15 stolen bases the past two years), and solid plate discipline (8.2% walk rate the past two seasons). But the reason to acquire him would be his defense. Parra won an Gold Glove in 2011 and has a 10.9 career UZR/150 in left field, 2.9 in centerfield, and 17.2 in right field in the smallest sample size. FRAA didn’t like Parra this season, giving him just a -3.3 mark as he played mostly centerfield, but he received great 14.9 and 7.8 marks in 2011 and 2010 while playing mostly left field. Essentially what the Rays would do is move Desmond Jennings to centerfield, acquire Parra to play left field, and shore up their outfield defense. Parra is obviously an offense downgrade from Upton, but he is would be under team control for the next three years, is a better hitter for average than Upton, and he recoups some of the difference in value with his defense.
But how much better is Parra than a healthy Sam Fuld? Fuld’s 88 career OPS+ is right behind Parra and he’s actually a better defensive left fielder, managing a ridiculous 24.0 career UZR/150. The difference is that Fuld only has one year as anything close to a starting outfielder under his belt (2011) while Parra has been starting for four years. The Rays could be more confident that Parra would give them a solid offensive season than Fuld, but considering Parra doesn’t blow them away, why should they expend assets to acquire him when Fuld is not much worse? At the end of the day, Parra is just one step above a fourth outfielder. He’s a tweener who’s not great defensively in centerfield and doesn’t have the power for a corner spot. Would the Rays acquire him nevertheless? Maybe in a low-profile deal like the Rays did with the Diamondbacks back in July when they acquired Ryan Roberts for second or third-tier prospect Tyler Bortnick. The Rays love defense, but their primary need in finding an Upton replacement is getting a hitter to lessen to offensive drop-off and Parra doesn’t satisfy that. Unless the Diamondbacks are willing to trade Parra for another mid-level prospect, this deal will not be happening.