Gerardo Parra’s signing could spell the end for Carlos Gonzalez with the Rockies

Today, the Colorado Rockies signed free agent outfielder Gerardo Parra to a three-year, $26 million contract. It’s a modest contract and one that could easily fit both a contending team or a rebuilding team. Right now, it’s possible for the Rockies to be either. Or at the very least, it’s possible for the Rockies to try to be either. Whether they could actually competing is a different matter. However, the presence of Parra now creates something of a logjam  in the outfield and could signal a trade of one of their current outfielders is on the horizon.

Gerardo Parra has always been known for his fielding ability. The outfielder won a Gold Glove in left field for his outstanding work in 2011. He was awarded another Gold Glove in 2013, this time for his ability in right field. While he has spent time in center field, he’s clearly better suited for a corner.

However in 2015, he started to rework his swing in an effort to tap into more power. It worked for the most part. On the season, he hit .291/.328/.452. That slugging percentage was by far the best of his career. The next closest mark came in 2011 when he slugged .427. Only two other times did he break .400 and just barely at that – .404 in 2009 and .403 in 2013.

His offensive production was still just good for a 108 wRC+, just 8% better than league average. That’s not a bad thing though. And Coors Field could help his power production even more. With solid defense in a corner spot, it’ll be hard for him not to be worth 3/$26. So in that respect, this is a solid deal for the Rockies. But it also opens up the opportunity for them to trade one of their other outfielders.

In my estimation, it’s unlikely the Rockies signed Parra to play center field. If that’s true, then they’ll likely want to hold onto Charlie Blackmon. That still leaves Corey Dickerson and Carlos Gonzalez. Each is primarily a corner outfielder at this point in their careers. Dickerson has spent time in center recently, but the number of innings has decreased with each successive year, and his defense in the corners isn’t great.

Dickerson isn’t a bad outfielder though. He had a great 2014, hitting .312/.364/.567 with 24 home runs in 131 games. He came close to emulating that in 2015 – .304/.333/.536 – when healthy. And that was a pretty big caveat for him last season. He only played in 65 games due to a bout with plantar faciitis, a pain condition in his foot. He is still just 26 (turns 27 in May) and comes with four years of team control – one pre-arbitration season followed by three arbitration years. He should be rather inexpensive for at least half that span.

Of the two, I think it’s far more likely the Rockies trade Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez had quite a resurgence in 2015, hitting .271/.325/.540 with 40 home runs in 153 games. Despite the lengthy injury history, I bet teams will be more interested in betting on his health and that upside than Dickerson’s youth and team control. I think the biggest obstacle in moving CarGo is his contract.

Gonzalez is under team control for two more years. He’s set to make $17.4 million in 2016 and $20.4 million in 2017. That’s almost $38 million over the next two years. While that’s no small sum, it might not be quite as bad as it looks. In the current era of spending that’s about what you pay for an All-Star caliber player, which Gonzalez is when healthy.

The important thing here is that a player who would warrant that type of annual average value on the free agent market would cost a lot more in terms of years. The fact that a team acquiring him only has to worry about his health for two years is actually a bonus here that helps mitigate that injury risk and the financial burden. That being said, I imagine the Rockies will have to include some money in any Gonzalez deal as the injury history is quite significant.

One team that has been mentioned in connection with the Rockies and Carlos Gonzalez are the Baltimore Orioles. They lost Gerardo Parra to free agency and also stand to lose Chris Davis and Steve Pearce. They have need of a left fielder and/or DH. So Gonzalez would be a perfect fit. He could benefit by playing the less demanding left field. Splitting some time at DH could help to keep him healthy.

After reportedly offering Chris Davis at least $150 million, it would appear the Orioles could manage the financial cost of acquiring Gonzalez. Whether they can afford the prospect cost is another matter. Their farm system is rather weak right now, although they do have pitchers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Both have been very highly rated, though each presents significant injury concerns. The prospect package the Rockies can expect in return likely depends largely on how teams feel about Gonzalez’s injury history and how much of his contract they’re willing to take on.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Contracts