The Arizona Diamondbacks have a lot of problems. They make disastrous trades involving elite players who aren’t “gritty” enough. They discourage Brandon McCarthy from throwing his cutter and trade him. McCarthy dominates in his first three starts with his new team using his cutter liberally. But not all of the Diamondback’s problems are bad ones.
They have a logjam in the outfield. The three starting outfielders for the Diamondbacks on opening day were Mark Trumbo, A.J. Pollock, and Gerardo Parra. Throughout the season the Diamondbacks have lost outfielders due to injury and filled their spots with young minor league players. It was expected that these guys would come up and play mediocre baseball and go back to the minors when the real major leaguers got healthy.
That didn’t happen here. Ender Inciarte has struggled at the plate but his speed and glove have kept him in the lineup since his debut earlier this year. Based on advanced metrics DRS (defensive runs saved) and UZR (ultimate zone rating) Inciarte has been an outstanding defensive outfielder.
David Peralta has been unbelievable since joining the major league roster. His slash line is an impressive .317/.345/.466 and his OPS+ is 124, well above league average. His defense is average but his offensive production makes it impossible for Kirk Gibson to take him out of the lineup.
Using these guys daily worked while established major leaguers were on the shelf with injuries. But now Trumbo is back playing left field everyday and Pollock is slated to return in the near future. Trumbo was the Diamondback’s big return in a trade in which they lost Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs so he has to play everyday. Pollock was having an outstanding season before injuring his hand. Who is the odd man out you ask?
Parra is the odd man out. He brings less to the lineup than Peralta and is not as speedy as Inciarte. He is having the worst offensive season of his career posting a weak slash line of .258/.304/.362 with the lowest walk rate of his career. His offensive WAR is below zero for the first time since 2010.
Everyone knows Parra has been an average hitter at best over his career. The consensus on Parra is that he is a plus fielder with an outstanding arm. Numbers back up this consensus. Parra led the majors in outfield assists in 2013 with 17 and is fifth in the majors in 2014. He has an elite arm. But his defensive WAR is below zero for the first time since 2009 proving that his range and overall defensive ability has declined.
After reading me describe how Parra isn’t good enough to play everyday for the Diamondbacks you are probably wondering why any team would want to trade anything for Parra. There are a few reasons. The first is advanced defensive metrics are questionable at best so maybe he still is an elite defender. I believe that Parra’s elite arm makes up for his decreasing range.
Parra’s arm has value to contending teams. The Toronto Blue Jays could use another outfielder as well as the Seattle Mariners. Whichever team gets Parra would hope that a change of scenery will wake up Parra’s bat.
— Arizona Sports 98.7 (@AZSports) July 25, 2014
There are some drawbacks to trading Parra. He is the second longest tenured Diamondbacks player behind Miguel Montero. The ovation Parra gets whenever his name is announced at Chase Field proves that the fans love him. Trading Parra could make fans even more disgruntled. But disgruntled fans are apart of the rebuilding process the Diamondbacks are enduring.
Another drawback is that Parra is a leader of the Diamondback clubhouse. The players respect Parra and clubhouse morale would suffer if Parra is traded.
If Parra is not traded he has to get demoted to the bench. When Pollock returns there is simply no room for Parra in the lineup. His arm is an asset the Diamondbacks or any team could use off the bench.